Rahul Gandhi writes to Lok Sabha Speaker

Rahul Gandhi. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after walking out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) on Defence, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to express “dismay” at the manner in which the meeting was conducted and asked Mr. Birla “to protect an elected MP’s right to speak freely”.

Giving his version of Wednesday’s events that saw him walkout from the Parliamentary panel meet, Mr. Gandhi said he was “repeatedly prevented” by the Chairman of the PSC on Defence, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Jual Oram, forcing him to walk out in protest.

“Sir, as Speaker of the Lok Sabha and custodian of the House, I urge you to intervene and ensure that the discussion and presentations held in the defence committee are in consonance with the role and objective of the institution and that the right of elected MPs to speak freely is protected,” Mr. Gandhi is learnt to have said in his letter.

The Congress leader also expressed surprise that the panel chose to “discuss uniforms in the current military situation” and mentioned that he had given in writing that the Committee should discuss India’s “strategy against China’s aggressive posture on the northern border in coordination with Pakistan; response to China’s reusable autonomous armed drones and unmanned systems strategy, its approach to information warfare and its rocket, strategic force and space capabilities; and the inter-governmental agreement on the purchase of Rafale war planes”.

“You are aware that we are currently facing a serious national security challenge on our borders and that China has forcibly occupied our territory and martyred 20 of our soldiers. There are many critical matters to discuss at a time like this. I was therefore extremely disturbed to find that the Chief of Defence Staff and the top brass of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have important matters to deal with, had been asked by the chairman to spend an entire afternoon explaining the colours and different types of uniforms and insignia worn by different ranks in our forces,” the letter read.

As was reported by The Hindu earlier, the Congress leader mentioned that he had put on record his objections after a BJP Rajya Sabha member talked about simplifying uniforms on the lines of those worn by the U.S. and other western forces.

“I put on record that I objected to the MP’s suggestion about asking our forces to make changes to their uniforms. I stated that it was not the committee’s place to tell our forces what to wear...I mentioned our job, as members of the defence committee, was to discuss critical National Security matters of a strategic nature...At this point, I was repeatedly prevented from speaking. When other members of the committee objected and requested Shri Oram to allow me to speak, given that the committee was free to record its dissent after, he insisted, aap nahi bolenge (you won’t speak),” Mr. Gandhi noted.

“The Committee is free to disagree with what I say, but the fact that the Chairman does not even permit a member to speak is a sad comment on how the government handles military affairs,” he added.

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister, Prakash Javadekar, however, accused Mr. Gandhi of “insulting Parliamentary procedures”, and pointed out that he [Mr. Gandhi] had attended only two of the 14 meetings of the Parliamentary panel in the past one-and-a-half-years.

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Printable version | Oct 17, 2021 10:12:26 AM |

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