Uproar over AgustaWestland scam, KG basin gas project force three adjournments in RS

The fifth day of the Budget Session started with three back-to-back adjournments in the  Rajya Sabha as the Congress-led Opposition protested over scores of issues, including CAG report on Gujarat's KG basin gas project.

The Rajya Sabha was forced to adjourn the House three times pre-lunch, when the Opposition Congress demanded a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Congress sought a discussion on the latest report of CAG listing irregularities in Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation's KG basin gas project.

While the government said CAG reports are examined by Public Accounts Committees (PACs) of state assemblies and there was no convention to discuss those in Parliament, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said their notice seeking a discussion was under examination of the Chairman.

This did not satisfy Congress members who rushed into the Well of the House raising slogans "Pradhan Mantri jawab do,
jawab do."

Kurien first adjourned the proceedings for 15 minutes till 11.30 am, then till noon and therafter till 12.32 am hours as similar scenes were repeated when the House reassembled after the brief breaks.

Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister in 2005 had announced that GSPC had struck 20 Trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in its
KG basin block. But recoverable reserves have proved to just one-tenth of that and GSPC's borrowings shot up to Rs 19,716.27 crore as of March 31, 2015, according to CAG report. Kurien said if notice is given, Chairman will examine it and called Sukhendu Shekhar Roy to speak on his notice.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

Congress members did not relent and moved into the Well shouting slogans.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said PAC of state assemblies go into CAG reports and Parliament does not discuss them. "This is diversionary tactics. They are trying to divert attention from AgustaWestland (helicopter) deal," he said.

Leader of Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley rejected Congress demand for a discussion on a CAG report pointing to anomalies in Gujarat's KG Basin gas project, saying this was a "diversionary tactic" of the Opposition party by raising a "non-issue".

Jaitley said the CAG report was being considered by the Public Accounts Committee of the Gujarat Assembly and hence it would be a wrong precedent to raise the subject in the House. He accused the Congress of raising the issue "as a diversionary tactic" to counter the Trinamool Congress (TMC) notice to have a discussion on the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter issue.

Countering this, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said "this allegation is not true. We had given notice for this 4-5 days ago." Deputy Leader of Congress Anand Sharma said his party wanted a discussion on the AgustaWestland issue also and was "not running away".

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also took a dig at Jaitley saying that the Leader of House has "characteristically" made a series of misleading statements. Azad said it was a question of thousands of crores worth loans taken from nationalised banks for the project that has now gone down the drain.

The Congress members trooped into the Well shouting slogans like "Now it is clear, Modi government is corrupt". Countering them, BJP leaders also shouted slogans saying "Sonia Gandhi is corrupt".

As the pandemonium continued, Vice Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House till 3 pm.

Seeking to corner Congress in the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool Congress raked up the issue of AgustaWestland helicopter scam and insisted on identifying of the 'Gandhi' and 'AP' mentioned in the alleged bribery case, inviting punitive action.

Trinamool member Sukhendu Sekhar Roy, who raised the issue and persisted with the matter despite rejection of his notice for adjournment, was asked by Chairman Hamid Ansari to withdraw from the House for the day. His party colleagues then staged a walkout to protest against the Chair's decision.

Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Roy wanted to know who has taken bribe in the Rs 3600 crore deal to buy 12 VVIP helicopters.

"Defence Minister has to give a statement. Why is the government silent," he asked. "Who is this AP (named as alleged bribe taker in the deal)? Who is Gandhi? Who is Shashikant." He wanted the defence minister to make a statement on the issue after suspending regular business and matter discussed. " Government has to disclose the identity (of bribe takers)," he said.

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there is no rule for suspension of business during Zero Hour and disallowed his notice.

Roy again raised the issue during Question Hour, demanding that government come out with a statement on who were the bribe-takers in the chopper deal.

Chairman Ansari asked him not to speak "unauthorisedly" as nothing was going on record. However, the Trinamool member did not stop.

Angry over this, Ansari invoked a Rule under which a member is asked to withdraw from the House for the entire day.

"You are speaking without authorisation. It is unbecomming of a member. This is not the intervention of a member. Sit down...I will have to invoke Rule 255. This is unauthorised. It is not going on record. You will not make this kind of
statement," he said, adding "Shall I invoke Rule 255? I will give you the choice."

As Roy kept speaking, Ansari said, "I invoke Rule 255.Will you please leave the Chamber."

Even this did not deter Roy, who kept on speaking on the issue asking, "Who has taken bribe in AgustaWestland deal. Who
is this Gandhi? Who is AP?"

As Roy kept on speaking, Ansari told him to leave, saying, "Will you leave the Chamber? Please leave the Chamber. Rule 255 has been invoked."

Rule 255 of Rajya Sabha on withdrawal of member says, "the Chairman may direct any member whose conduct is in his opinion grossly disorderly to withdraw immediately from the Council and any member so ordered to withdraw shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day's meeting."

Roy left the House raising slogans "Yeh ghooskhor Gandhi kaun hai? (Who is this Gandhi involved in bribery?) Soon TMC members rose, with Vivek Gupta saying all TMC members are walking out in protest.

After Roy and other TMC members left, Congress members were on their feet raising the issue of Gujarat Petroleum Corporation and wanted a discussion on it.

"We are prepared to discuss the matter listed (AgustaWestland), but GSPL issue should also be listed," said Anand Sharma (Cong) amid uproar by Congress members.

They also started raising slogans like "Modi Sarkar Bhrashtachar, bhrashtachar (Modi government is corrupt).

Amid the uproar, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari rose to say that since the Chairman has sent one member out of the House invoking Rule 255, why was he not invoking the same Rule with regard to other members who are creating pandemonium in the
House.

To this, the Chairman said the Rule applies to one member and if the government wanted it can bring a motion against Congress members.

Amid continued uproar by Congress members, Ansari adjourned the House.


Published Date: May 03, 2016 07:13 am | Updated Date: May 03, 2016 07:15 am


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