New Delhi: The Congress MP demands white paper on Rafale deal
Debate on the Union Budget 2018-19 began on a stormy note in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, with the treasury benches loudly protesting throughout Congress MP M. Veerappa Moily’s speech, who nevertheless spoke for an hour and demanded a white paper on the Rafale deal.
As the Lok Sabha convened at 3 pm, BJP MPs appeared agitated and were loudly protesting against the Congress. Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Ananth Kumar stood up in support of his party MPs and said that it was “most unfortunate” that the Congress, which was now demanding order in the House when its member was speaking, had not extended the same courtesy to Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was responding to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address earlier in the day.
“The Congress, especially UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, should be ashamed. What they did was an insult to Rashtrapatiji as well. If they [Congress] don’t hear us out, we won’t either. We want discussion on the Budget, but our MPs are also angry and they are expressing it,” he said.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the protesting MPs to stand down, but when that was not forthcoming she asked Mr. Moily to continue with his speech in the din. Mr Moily complied, but remarked that going by “past convention” it was the “government’s duty to conduct the business of the House.” He said he was “not sure if the government wants to debate the Budget.”
Mr. Moily also demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologise to the country for casting aspersions on the judgement of the father of nation, Mahatma Gandhi, in choosing Jawahar Lal Nehru as India’s first Prime Minister.
“The Budget is a serious assault on federal finances, as the Centre, by going the cess route on infrastructure and even petroleum, is depriving the States of their share of revenue and appropriating it,” he said. His strongest attack on the government, however, was on the issue of the Rafaele deal, which he said was the biggest scam to hit the country. “There is opacity with regard to the deal… the Defence Minister has refused to disclose the purchase price of the aircraft, and it is time the Prime Minister answered this question,” he said. “I demand a white paper on the Rafaele deal,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was present in the Lok Sabha when Mr. Moily spoke.