If Indian democracy is functioning, then an Opposition leader against whom four Ministers have made allegations should be able to speak on the floor of the House, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Thursday as he sought time from Lok Speaker Om Birla to put forward his views on the floor of the House.
Mr. Gandhi said that it would be a ‘test of democracy’ whether he is allowed to respond to the allegations made by Ministers and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders or is “told to shut up”. He added that the tamaasha (spectacle) around him was a “diversionary” tactic as the government was scared of answering his question about “the nature of relationship between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and business tycoon Gautam Adani”.
The functioning of the second part of the Budget session of Parliament has been paralysed for the past four days as the BJP has insisted that Mr. Gandhi should first tender an apology for his “democracy under attack” comment, made in London.
Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal, Pralhad Joshi and Smriti Irani were among those who spoke out and sought the former Congress chief’s apology.
“I went to Parliament this morning with the idea of putting what I have said, what I feel, on the floor of the House. Four Ministers have raised allegations against me in Parliament House. It is my right to be allowed to speak on the floor of the house. I requested to the Speaker today,” Mr. Gandhi told reporters at a press conference at the All India Congress Committee (AICC) headquarters.
He said that Mr. Birla had heard him out and smiled but was non-committal on allowing him to speak.
‘Test of democracy’
“I am a Member of Parliament and I am hopeful that I will be allowed to speak in Parliament,” Mr. Gandhi said, adding, “So, if Indian democracy was functioning, I would be able to say my piece in Parliament. So actually, what you are seeing, is a test of Indian democracy.”
“After four leaders of the BJP have made an allegation about a Member of Parliament, is that Member going to be given the same space that those four Ministers have been given or is he going to be told to shut up? That’s what the real question in front of this country is right now,” the former Congress chief noted.
The Congress leader claimed that the BJP’s counter offensive was a tactic to avoid uncomfortable questions on the Adani group getting India-Israel defence deals and contracts in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, billions of dollars pledged by the State Bank of India, and rules being changed to give away airports to the group.
“So, these are relevant questions and the whole idea is that these questions must not be on the table. That is why this whole exercise of four or five Ministers, the Prime Minister is giving a speech to distract from this fundamental question: what is the relationship between the Prime Minister of India and Mr. Adani and his companies? And more importantly, whose money is in the shell companies?” Mr. Gandhi said.