Rafale rocks Parliament, government ready for discussion

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New Delhi, Dec 14 : Even as the Supreme Court dismissed four petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the purchase of Rafale jet fighters, the Congress on Friday persisted with its demand in Parliament for a JPC probe, leading to a heated argument between the treasury benches and the Opposition.

The pandemonium over the issue forced the chairs in both houses of Parliament to adjourn the proceedings for the day.

The government, however, agreed for a discussion on Rafale but kept mum on Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe. Armed with the Supreme Court judgement, the government launched a counter-offensive seeking an apology from Congress President Rahul Gandhi for “misleading” the nation on Rafale.

As the proceedings began in the Lok Sabha, the Congress, TDP and AIADMK members rushed near Speaker’s podium and started sloganeering.

The Congress members were demanding constitution of a JPC to probe the defence deal with a French company, while the AIADMK members were protesting on the Cauvery water issue. The TDP members were demanding special status for Andhra Pradesh.

As the din continued, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House till noon. Scenes were, however, no different when the House reassembled.

Amid the din, Mahajan tried to conduct the proceedings and the Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and the Central Universities (Amendment) Bill, 2018 were introduced.

Soon after the Bill was introduced, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh rose to his feet and countered the Opposition’s allegation on the Rafale jet deal citing the apex court’s decision.

“For political gains, Rahul Gandhi tried to mislead the nation and tarnish the country’s image globally,” he said during Zero Hour.

“As the Congress itself indulged in corruption, it tries to drag the BJP to counter the charges. With this thought process, they tried to demean the government and tarnish the nation’s international image,” he said.

He also said there was no deficiency in the quality and purchasing process of the 36 Rafale jet fighters in a ready-to-fly condition.

“Rahul Gandhi should come to the floor of the House and tender an apology to the nation,” the Minister said amid loud slogans raised by the Congress and other opposition members.

Amid protests, the Bharatiya Janata Party members were heard raising slogans like “Rahul Gandhi chor hai (Gandhi is the thief)” and “Rahul Gandhi maafi mango (He should apologise)”.

As soon as Rajnath Singh concluded his speech, Mahajan requested the agitating members to go back to their seats.

Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge also rose to his feet asking Mahajan to allow him to speak but she did not allow.

“If you want a discussion, you can discuss. First, go to your seats,” Mahajan told the members.

As the Congress and other opposition members continued their protests, she adjourned the House for the day.

The government, which was defensive after the results of the Assembly election in five states, suddenly went aggressive against the Congress following the court’s verdict.

In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and BJP members staged noisy protests over Rafale.

Soon after the upper house met, the Congress members trooped near the chair seeking constitution of a JPC while the BJP members were on their feet asking Congress President Rahul Gandhi to apologise.

“Rahul Gandhi maafi maango (apologise),” the ruling party MPs said in a chorus.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley then took charge and asked for a discussion on the Rafale deal.

“I demand that Congress party should immediately start a discussion on Rafale,” Jaitley said.

But the Congress and other Opposition members did not relent. As the din continued, Rajya Sabha Chairman Harivansh adjourned the House for the day.

Earlier, as soon as the House met for the day, some members belonging to the DMK and AIADMK trooped to the Chair’s podium, holding placards.

They have been protesting against a proposed dam across the Cauvery river.

Amid the pandemonium, Deputy Chairman Harivansh adjourned the House for 20 minutes.

Giving a clean chit to government, the Supreme Court on Friday held that the decision making process was not in doubt and it cannot go into the question of pricing and choice of offset Indian partner by the French aircraft manufacturer Dassault.