The Congress party today skipped the breakfast hosted by Rajya Sabha Chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu. The breakfast was part of the protocol for the newly elected Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Narayan Singh. The decision by the Congress to reject the invitation has been seen by the BJP as a mark of disrespect to the Constitutional authority. On the other hand, the Congress’ move is seen as a mark of protest against the government and follows allegations by the party that chairperson Naidu was being unfair in providing opportunity to the Congress in the house to raise different issues.
According to several media reports, the immediate reason for skipping the breakfast is attributed to the Congress not being allowed by Naidu to raise concerns around the Rafale deal, which has become the party’s and its president Rahul Gandhi’s cornerstone in trying to corner the Narendra Modi government. Even as the Rajya Sabha began in the morning, it witnessed disruptions and was adjourned till 2.30 pm. The uproar continued after the House re-assembled on the last day of the Monsoon session of Parliament.
Part of the plan?
Crucially, the Modi government planned to place the Triple Talaq bill or ‘The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017’ today after bringing in key amendments. However, the bill was deferred due to ‘unrest’ in the house over the Opposition’s demands to constitute a JPC probe into the Rafale deal. The Congress party has termed the deal as a ‘scam’ and protested near the Gandhi statue of the Parliament today. “This is the biggest scam of the world. We demand the formation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the Rafale deal,” Ghulam Nabi Azad said in the Rajya Sabha.
The decision to skip the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s breakfast as much a mark of protest against the government as it is a ploy to ensure that the government does not succeed in getting the Triple Talaq bill passed and allow the BJP to claim credit for it ahead of crucial Assembly elections in states. While the BJP has termed it as a disrespect to the Constitutional authority, Congress has alleged that the House is partisan towards the ruling government.
Attempt to corner BJP
With several parties terming Rafale deal as another ‘Bofors,’ BJP has rejected all claims. The latest uproar started when Rahul Gandhi said in Parliament that Defence Minister has clearly lied under pressure from the PM. “Everybody knows the relationship that PM Modi has with few business people, and everyone can see the amount of money that goes into his marketing. One of them was given the Rfalae contract. PM Modi has not been truthful and that is a fact,” Gandhi had said during the debate on the no-confidence motion against the government in July.
The Rafale deal is an agreement for 36 fighter jets at a value of Euro 7.87 Billion (around Rs 59000 crore). Soon after the deal, Anil Ambani’s Reliance group announced a JV for fulfilling the offset contract. The agreement includes a 50 percent offset obligation. Rahul Gandhi has attacked the government on this front too. In November 2017, Gandhi tweeted, “Self Reliance’ is obviously a critical aspect of ‘Make in India.’ “Can you explain ‘Reliance’ on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal.” Later, Anil Ambani wrote to Gandhi and said that the company has the necessary experience in defence manufacturing.