CONGRESS LEADER Rahul Gandhi has written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla asking for an opportunity to respond to “scurrilous and defamatory claims” made by the BJP against him even as the main Opposition party alleged that the Treasury benches have been disrupting Parliamentary proceedings over the issue in a planned manner.
The BJP has been demanding an apology from Gandhi for his remarks made during a recent trip to the UK, where he said Indian democracy was under attack. The proceedings of both Houses have been marred by disruptions, with BJP MPs demanding Gandhi’s apology and the Opposition seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe charges against the Adani Group.
In a letter to the Speaker on March 18, Gandhi said he had written to him the previous day as well asking for permission to “respond to totally baseless and unfair charges hurled at me by senior Ministers in the Lok Sabha”.
“I am making such a request again. I am seeking the permission under the conventions of Parliamentary practice, the Constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha,” he wrote. The rule states that a member can make a personal explanation with the Speaker’s permission.
“Members of the ruling regime have made scurrilous and defamatory claims against me both within and outside Parliament. As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for personal explanations,” he wrote.
He also included an example of the then Union minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad invoking the rule to give an explanation regarding comments made about him by Jyotiraditya Scindia in Parliament in 2015. Scindia, who is now a BJP MP and Minister, was then a Congress MP. Gandhi said there were several examples in the Lok Sabha digital library that showed that the right to reply was not restricted to responding to statements made in Parliament.
Meanwhile, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil said the ruling party was disrupting the proceedings, including twice on Tuesday. “For the first time in our country’s history, the party in power is not letting Parliament function and disrupting the House,” Gohil told reporters at the party office.
He said the Opposition was demanding a JPC to probe the allegations against the Adani Group as the money of the common people was being lost. He said Gandhi was responding to a question about democracy when he said “the problem is in my country, the solution will also come from my country”.
He said the BJP was raising the demand for an apology “only to divert attention from the Adani issue”. “This is their strategy. They can’t blame the Opposition. The ruling party is responsible for the house not functioning,” Gohil said.
Earlier, Trinamool Congress MPs held a protest demanding the arrest of Gautam Adani. TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien said the BJP was stalling Parliament as they did not want to discuss the Adani matter. He called on all non-BJP ruled states to institute probes into the allegations. When asked when the TMC-ruled West Bengal government would set up such a probe, O’Brien said it was a decision to be made by the state government.