Rahul and other members of his party on Wednesday walked out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, saying chairman Jual Oram was wasting the panel’s time discussing armed forces’ uniforms instead of the crucial issue of national security
File image of Rahul Gandhi. PTI
Hours after Union minister Prakash Javadekar Thursday slammed Rahul Gandhi for walking out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, the Congress leader in a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla claimed that he was not allowed to speak freely during the session and sought his intervention.
In his letter on Thursday, Rahul urged the Speaker to ensure that the right of elected MPs to speak freely in parliamentary panel meetings is protected, sources told PTI.
The Congress leader also said the Speaker, being the custodian of Parliament, should ensure that the discussions and presentations in the panel on defence are in consonance with its role and objectives.
Rahul and other members of his party on Wednesday walked out of the meeting saying chairman Jual Oram was wasting the panel’s time discussing armed forces’ uniforms instead of the crucial issue of national security.
‘Urge you to intervene’
Rahul was disallowed to speak at the meeting by the panel chairman Oram (of the BJP) when he sought to raise the issues of Chinese aggression and better equipping the soldiers at the border in Ladakh, sources further told PTI.
“It is the right of a member to point out digressions from the agenda and the purpose of the Standing Committee. 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,” the Congress leader said in the letter.
“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 MP’s to speak freely is protected,” the Congress leader wrote.
Rahul expressed his dismay over the contents of the meeting and the manner in which it was conducted and said it is meant to provide legislative oversight on the policies and decisions of the defence ministry, it being the premier interface between the defence forces and elected representatives.
Rahul said the agenda for the discussion at the meet was military uniforms, but taking into account the current military situation he felt it was surprising.
“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,” he said.
The former Congress chief said he was 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.
“I mentioned our job, as members of the defence committee, was to discuss critical national security matters of a strategic nature. I also indicated that the topic of discussion and nature of presentation did not do justice to the type and level of discussion expected in the committee,” he told the Speaker.
However, Rahul pointed out that he was repeatedly prevented from speaking and the panel chairman said “aap nahi bolenge“.
“I politely requested the chairman a number of times to allow me to complete my intervention. He refused to allow me to do so. To register my protest at being prevented from expressing my views, I had no option but to leave the room,” he said.
The Congress leader said since he was away to his constituency Wayanad when the last meeting of the panel was held, he had sent suggestions to Oram that were of critical importance for discussion in the panel.
Rahul had sought to discuss the country’s strategy against China’s aggressive posture on the northern border in coordination with Pakistan and the country’s 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.
He has also sought to discuss the inter-governmental agreement on the purchase of Rafale warplanes.
Rahul attended two of 14 meetings: Javadekar
Day after Rahul’s walkout, no Thrusday Javadekar slammmed the Congress leader for remaining mostly absent from the committee’s meetings in the past.
Rahul has attended “only two out of the 14 meetings in the last one-and-a-half years and did not disclose his desired agenda for discussion as he was absent in the meeting to finalise the agenda”, Javadekar said.
Rahul himself remains absent and then blames the government and all procedures, the minister claimed. “Himself not attending the meetings and conveying desired agenda, and then making imputation of not discussing important issues is an insult to all parliamentary procedures and constitutional institutions,” Javadekar added.
Noting that the proceedings of the committees are secret, the minister said parliamentary panels are not for delivering speeches or staging political protests.
With inputs from PTI
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