Congress slams PM for making AgustaWestland an election issue

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS) The Rajya Sabha witnessed several adjournments on Monday following noisy scenes as the Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of lying and using the AgustaWestland row as an election issue.

A little after the house met, Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad quoted a newspaper report from an election rally addressed by Modi in Kerala and said the government was using the VVIP helicopter deal to malign the Congress.

“We discussed AgustaWestland in both houses. In neither house did anyone say that UPA leaders took money. Neither has the (Italian) court said that UPA leaders took money,” Azad said.

“We have been saying from the beginning that the purpose (behind the Agusta row) is not to discuss the issue inside the house, but to use it outside the house and use it in the elections to malign the Congress leadership. It is similar to what happened in the 1980s with Bofors,” said Azad.

“The issue is being raised because it is being used against the Congress in the elections,” Azad said.

He read out a newspaper report which quoted Modi as saying at an election rally that a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leader took money in the purchase of the helicopters.

“Why didn’t the prime minister speak in either house? When it was decided that there should be action, why is he making it an election issue?”

Azad also wondered if the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the issue, will be influenced by what the prime minister says.

“The CBI comes under the PM. if he is using this language, the CBI will be affected.”

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi repeated the government’s stand that guilty in the AgustaWestland case would be punished.

“Those who have given bribe are in jail, those who have taken bribe will be in jail very soon,” Naqvi said.

Congress leader Anand Sharma asked the prime minister to give a clarification in the house.

“The PM must substantiate the statement he has made. He has said that the court has indicted Congress leaders,” he said.

Congress members then trooped near the Chairman’s podium raising slogans against Modi, calling him a liar.

In the ruckus, the house was briefly adjourned.

When the house reassembled, Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien said the chair cannot take cognisance of what has been said outside the house.

Sharma then said: “The prime minister has contradicted his defence minister. He is pre-empting a decision.”

Trinamool Congress member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, meanwhile, asked the chair to expel the disrupting Congress members from the house. Roy was last week asked to withdraw from the house under Rule 255 by Chairman M. Hamid Ansari, and on Monday he wanted the same rule applied to the Congress members.

Congress members again trooped near the Chairman’s podium, forcing another adjournment up to 12 noon.

Question Hour was no different, and despite Chairman Ansari’s pleas for peace in the house, Congress members raised slogans against Prime Minister Modi, though they did not approach the Chairman’s podium during Question Hour.

The house was adjourned first for half an hour, and then till 2 p.m.

Post-lunch, the disruptions continued and the Congress members first questioned how the government listed the Uttarakhand budget without getting the proclamation on President’s rule in Uttarakhand ratified by parliament.

Kurien told the members that the issue should be taken up when the house takes up the item, and asked them to proceed with the appropriation and finance bills.

As the ruckus continued the house was adjourned till 3 p.m.

–IANS

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