New Delhi: As the Parliament logjam continued for the fourth consecutive day, the government on Thursday said Congress leader Rahul Gandhi should “first demonstrate” his regret for “defaming the Indian democracy and Parliament on a foreign soil”. The Opposition stuck to its demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the alleged irregularities in the Adani group.
Rahul Gandhi, who attended the second half of the Budget Session for the first time, termed the controversy over his recent remarks made in the UK as a distraction. He claimed that the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi were “scared” over the Adani issue and that is why they have “prepared this whole tamasha”.
The BJP insisted that Gandhi should seek permission from the Chairs of both Houses to tender an apology. The Congress rejected the charge and ruled out any apology from its former president.
Renewing their attack on the government, the Opposition parties in both Houses kept pushing for their demand for a JPC. As the Houses assembled in the morning for the day, both Houses witnessed a ruckus, with the Lok Sabha adjourning within three minutes and the Rajya Sabha within four minutes of assembling till 2 pm as the Opposition and Treasury Benches vociferously stuck to their respective demands.
As the proceedings got underway, the TMC members gathered in the Wells of both Houses with their mouths covered with a black cloth.
Amid the BJP’s demand for an apology from Rahul Gandhi, the Congress leader met with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking permission to speak in the Lok Sabha. Addressing the media after Parliament was adjourned for the day, the former Congress president said, “I went to Parliament this morning with the idea of putting (forward) what I have said or what I feel on the floor of the House. Four ministers have raised allegations against me in Parliament House. It is my right to be allowed to speak on the floor of the House.”
Gandhi said he told the Speaker that the BJP made allegations against him and “as a member of Parliament, it is my right to speak.” He claimed the Speaker was “non-committal” and had just smiled.
The Congress leader said he was hopeful, though not sure, that he will be allowed to speak in Parliament on Friday.
Gandhi said he had asked some fundamental questions about the relationship between Modi and Adani Group chairperson Gautam Adani.
“As an MP, I will like to first place my statement on the floor of the House and then after that, I will be happy to have a discussion with you all,” he told the media.
“So if Indian democracy were functioning, I will be able to say my piece in Parliament… So, actually, what you are saying is a test of Indian democracy — after four BJP leaders have made allegations about an MP, is that member going to be given the same space that those four members were given or is he going to be told to shut up,” said the former Congress president, adding, “That is what the question is before this country right now.”
Gandhi’s remarks during his recent trip to the UK have rocked Parliament, with both Houses failing to transact any significant business on the first four days of the Budget Session’s second half. Several BJP leaders, including Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal and Pralhad Joshi, have demanded an apology from Gandhi over his remarks.
Goyal and Joshi, addressing the media outside Parliament, said the Congress member has levelled “absolutely baseless and false allegations without any iota of truth”.
Taking a swipe at the Congress leader, Goyal said he was behaving as if he had come after performing some “great act of patriotism” without showing any sign of remorse.
The BJP also accused Rahul Gandhi of seeking the intervention of foreign powers in India by portraying the state of democracy in the country in a poor light. Joshi said: “India’s prestige has not been attacked in such a manner before. Political differences may be there, but there cannot be a graver crime than to seek interference from foreign powers. Anger prevails across the country for the grave insult Mr Gandhi has inflicted upon what even the world acknowledges as the mother of democracy.”
When asked whether the session was headed for a washout if the Congress sticks to its guns on the issue, Joshi said, “I don’t think so.” He, however, insisted that other parties are also of the view that Mr Gandhi should apologise.
Earlier in the day, the Opposition leaders formed a human chain in the Parliament House premises, demanding a JPC probe into alleged irregularities in the Adani Group. Carrying placards and raising slogans, the Opposition MPs, including Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge, DMK leader T.R. Baalu, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, National Conference patron Farooq Abdullah, Shiv Sena (UBT) leaders Priyanka Chaturvedi and Arvind Sawant, also protested against what they called the BJP government’s “diversionary tactics”.
“All Opposition parties have come together to demand a probe against the Adani Group. It is unfortunate that the Prime Minister is trying to save his dear friend Mr Adani,” Gaurav Gogoi, deputy leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, said.
He said the Delhi police had prevented the Opposition leaders from marching to the office of the Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday. And the Opposition leaders are not allowed to raise this issue in Parliament. “Our microphones are turned off,” Mr Gogoi said.
The decision to form a human chain demanding a JPC probe into the Adani Group was taken at a joint meeting of Opposition leaders convened by Mr Kharge on Thursday morning.
Leaders of several Opposition parties, including the Congress, DMK, NCP, SP, RJD, BRS, CPM, CPI, Shiv Sena (UBT), JDU, JMM, MDMK, AAP, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and IUML, attended the meeting.