Rafale deal echoes in Lok Sabha again, FM’s reply cut short

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New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS) The Rafale deal echoed in the Lok Sabha once again on Thursday, with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claiming the Congress was “manufacturing” allegations on the defence deal, leading to opposition protests and adjournment of the House and cutting short of his reply.

Shortly before the House was adjourned, members from the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), who had been standing near the Speaker’s podium with placards throughout Jaitley’s reply so far, surrounded his seat to listen to his announcements regarding Andhra Pradesh, while members from the Congress raised slogans, and other MPs from opposition parties supported the Congress from their seats.

In the course of his reply on the Budget debate, Jaitley said the Congress was trying to manufacture a scam in Rafale fighter jet purchase because it had not been able to find any corruption case in the Narendra Modi government’s tenure so far.

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“The (earlier) United Progressive Alliance government was stigmatised because of corruption. In this government, because they could not find any corruption cases, they manufactured one,” Jaitley said.

The Minister also quoted a number of written replies in Parliament by Ministers from the then UPA governments, wherein they had refused to quote the price in defence deals citing security concerns.

“Break-up of cost will tell what weapon systems are there in the deal. These security pacts are inherent part of these defence contracts,” he said.

“They’re compromising national security by asking for details which should not be made public, by which I mean known to the enemy,” Jaitley added.

This was countered by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who said the opposition did not want any details that would compromise national security and the government can just reveal the price of purchase.

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Jaitley however said that a break-up of the price may reveal details of the missiles and equipment that are in the deal. He also questioned if Congress President Rahul Gandhi was on the same page as Tharoor, prompting protests from opposition benches.

Following this, Congress members insisted that Rahul Gandhi, who came to the house just as the Rafale issue was being raised, should be allowed to speak.

The Congress members got support from the Trinamool Congress and the Communist Party of India-Marxist members. Trinamool’s Saugata Roy raised a point of order that since Jaitley had referred to the Congress President, Gandhi should be allowed to speak.

The Congress members, meanwhile, trooped near the Speaker’s podium, where members from the TDP and YSR Congress were already standing with placards, and started raising slogans.

Members from the treasury benches also raised their pitch as Congress members demanded clarification on the Rafale deal.

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Jaitley, however, said that he did not want his speech to be interrupted and said he would speak on the Andhra Pradesh issues.

“Mr. (Veerappa) Moily raised the Rafale issue in his speech, so it was my duty to respond. There is no reason why my speech should be interrupted,” he said.

Amid a ruckus by the Congress and other opposition members, the TDP members surrounded the Finance Minister’s chair to listen to the announcements.

On this, opposition members wondered if it was a National Democratic Alliance meeting, in which the TDP and the BJP are allies.

CPI-M MP Md. Salim said he has never witnessed a similar scene in Parliament in the past.

Amid the din, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the Lok Sabha for the day without the completion of Jaitley’s reply or passage of the Budget.

–IANS

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