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Cong protests PM’s remark that Italian court held Sonia guilty

AgustaWestland Chopper

New Delhi : Congress today created pandemonium in Rajya Sabha, forcing two adjournments in the pre-noon session over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegation during an election rally that an Italian court had named Sonia Gandhi in the AgustaWestland chopper bribery case.

They asked how could the Prime Minister make such allegations when Defence Minister had not stated this in his reply to debates on the controversy in both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha last week and sought to know which court was Modi quoting.

Congress members trooped into the Well of the Upper House shouting slogans like “Pradhan Mantri jhoota hai (Prime Minister is liar)” and demanding an apology from him, forcing Deputy Chairman P J Kurien to first adjourn the proceedings for 10 minutes and then till 1200 hours.

The party members said when the government during the reply to debate on the controversy in both Houses did not draw any reference to Gandhi, how could the Prime Minister make a such a statement outside, and that too when Parliament was in session.

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

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

He asked why did Modi not intervene in the debates on the issue in either of the House and say this. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had not named any UPA leader in his reply, Azad said.

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.

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.

Kurien said what is being attributed to the Prime Minister was said outside the House and the Congress party can reply to that outside as well.

“The Chair cannot take cognizance of it,” he said, adding “I cannot do anything.”

“Is Chair responsible for political speeches,” he asked as he urged members to return to their places and allow Zero Hour to be taken up.

Anand 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.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said while no one guilty in the deal will be spared, no innocent will be touched.

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.

According to him, Modi had said “what the world is talking and what the Italian court has said.”

Prime Minister did not make any policy announcement outside the House and so has not violated any rule. “It was an election rally speech,” he said.

As the din continued, Kurien adjourned the House for 10 minutes.

When the members re-assembled, Pramod Tiwari (Cong) raised a point of order saying when the House was in session, whatever Modi has said is the statement of the government.

He said the Prime Minister’s statement contradicts what the Defence Minister has said in Parliament. “Either the Prime Minister is lying or the Minister of Defence is lying,” Tiwari said.

On Tiwari’s point of order, Kurien said: “Chair does not take cognizance of what has been said (outside the House) and reported by newsapers. I don’t take congnizance”.

Anand Sharma (Cong) said since the Prime Minister has contradicted the statement of the Defence Minister, “the Prime Minister must come (in the House) or withdraw his statement.” Modi’s statement was misleading and factually incorrect, he added.

The Deputy Chairman asked Sharma to give notice if the Prime Mininster has violated any rule. “If any member has violated any rule, give notice. I will examine,” Kurien said.

Naresh Agrawal (SP) said the Defence Minister had given statement on AgustaWestland case in the House and later outside Parliament he said certain people were given important postings.

“If the Defence Minister had give (additional) statement he should have given it in the House,” the SP member said.

Aiming at taking forward the House proceedings, Kurien asked Sukhendu Sekhar Roy (TMC) to raise his Zero Hour mention.

As Congress members shouted slogans, Roy asked the Chair to invoke Rule 255. However, Kurien did not agree.

Roy there was a precedent as the rule was invoked during a discussion on women’s reservation bill in 2010. Follow the precedents or it will be “discrimination”, Roy, who was suspended under that rule for a day last week, said, as Congress members continued sloganeering.

Soon, Congress members trooped into the Well raising slogans against the Prime Minister and Kurien adjourned the House till noon.

The Lok Sabha too saw Congress members raising the issue of the Prime Minister making allegations against party chief Sonia Gandhi with regard to the Agusta Westland case.

As soon as the House met for the day, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the Prime Minister has been making allegations against Gandhi during election rallies in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

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

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