RS proceedings washed out over PM’s remarks against Sonia

NEW DELHI, May 9: The Rajya Sabha today saw a washout as Congress created a storm over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s charge at a poll rally that an Italian court had named Sonia Gandhi in chopper bribery case, with demands that he should apologise which was rejected by the Government.

The Upper House was repeatedly adjourned and finally the proceedings were terminated prematurely, minutes past 3 pm, as pandemonium continued.

In the Lok Sabha too, the issue generated heat soon after it assembled for the day with Congress members raising the matter but the business was carried out.

Leader of Congress Mallikarjun Kharge was heard saying that the Prime Minister’s comments could influence CBI and ED which are investigating the alleged kickbacks in the Rs 3600 crore VVIP AgustaWestland helicopter deal.

Asking “which court has indicted” Sonia Gandhi, Kharge said it was a serious issue and the party might be forced to move Privilege Motion against the Prime Minister.

The Congress in both Houses questioned how the Prime Minister could make such allegations when Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had not stated this in his reply to debates on the controversy in both the Houses last week.

It wanted to know which court Modi was quoting.

“Pradhan Mantri House mein aao (Prime Minister should come to the House) and reply…. Narendra Modi maafi mange. ‘Feku’ Mama maafi maange (Narendra Modi should apologise. Bluffmaster should apologise),” shouted members of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha.

Hitting back at Congress, Naqvi said the Prime Minister’s remarks had created a stir among middlemen and corrupt people who do not want that their corruption and dishonesty should be found out.

“What crime has the PM committed?…Why should he tender an apology? Should he tender apology for bringing to an end the scams, for taking the poor on the path of development,” Naqvi questioned.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad (Cong) said no member in the Lower House or the Upper House, during the debate on AgustaWestland deal, said the UPA leadership had taken money.

Maintaining that Congress had demanded stringent action against any leader or officer found guilty in the case, he said Modi had during poll rallies in Kerala and Tamil Nadu claimed that it was not his statement but an Italian court has said that Gandhi was guilty in the case.

He asked why Modi did not intervene in the debates on the issue in either of the House to say this.

Azad noted that Parrikar had not named any UPA leader in his reply and the charge was being used to tarnish the image of the Congress and its leadership.

CBI, which is conducting an inquiry in the case, falls directly under the Prime Minister, he said and asked will the investigating agency not be influenced by such statements.

Anand Sharma (Cong) said the Prime Minister should come to the House and substantiate the statement he has made.

Kurien said what is being attributed to the Prime Minister was said outside the House and the Congress can reply to that outside as well. “The Chair cannot take cognizance of it,” he said, adding “I cannot do anything.”

As Kurien ruled out Sharma’s notice under rule 267 to suspend business to take up the issue, Congress members trooped in the Well raising slogans against the PM.

“Is Chair responsible for political speeches,” he asked.

Naqvi contended that Modi had said “what the world is talking about and what the Italian court has said.”

He noted that Modi had not made any policy announcement outside the House and so has not violated any rule.

“It was an election rally speech,” he said, adding no one who has taken bribe will be spared and the Congress members’ demand will be taken care of.

As the Congress members shouted slogans against Prime Minister, Naqvi asked Chair to rein them in saying the BJP was also capable of shouting slogans.

Sharma asked if the Prime Minister was pre-empting the CBI investigation since the probe agency comes under him.

Modi, he said, has made a statement which contradicts what the Defence Minister had said on the floor of the House. He went on to state that Prime Minister’s statement was violative of norms and dignity of the house.

Kurien, however, said the Chair cannot ask the Prime Minister to come and make a statement on the issue.

Amid noisy protests by Congress members in the well, Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha moved the Appropriation Bill, 2016 and the Finance Bill, 2016 for consideration and return.

As Kurien asked Ajay Sancheti (BJP) to speak on the bills, Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) urged Kurien to postpone the discussion as there was no order in the House. (PTI)

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