Rafale deal: Congress gives Venkaiah Naidu's breakfast invite a miss, opts to break protocol and demand JPC

In its overwhelming zeal to corner the Narendra Modi government at the Centre on the Rafale deal and force it to order a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe for the same, the Congress party on Friday chose to dump propriety for politics by skipping a breakfast hosted by Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

The Congress move may be seen as a breach of protocol which is tantamount to showing disrespect to one of the most exalted constitutional positions in the country. Yet, the Congress believes that this show of protest would help in clearing the cobwebs around the controversial Rafael deal.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi along with other opposition parties' leaders raises slogans during a protest against the Union government over Rafale deal issue, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Friday, 10 August, 2018. PTI

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi along with other opposition parties' leaders raises slogans during a protest against the Union government over Rafale deal issue, at Parliament House in New Delhi on Friday, 10 August, 2018. PTI

The Congress MPs have perhaps failed to understand that there is a well-established platform in the form of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to address these issues. A call for a JPC probe is a constitutional matter and would need constitutional means to be redressed, a refusal to attend breakfast is hardly likely to lead to a solution.

If the idea is to take the issue to the public domain and spread awareness about the alleged wrongdoings in the deal, slighting the country’s vice president doesn’t seem to be ethical.

Moreover, Friday is the last day of the Monsoon session and Naidu invited the members over breakfast to felicitate newly elected deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, Harivansh Narayan Singh.

"The breakfast invitation was part of a protocol and nothing to do with any party. It was the vice president of India and chairman of Rajya Sabha who invited all the members over breakfast on this last day of the Session. By boycotting it, the Congress party has tried to dishonour the chair and not any party or individual. These constitutional posts like the president, vice president, Rajya Sabha chairman, Lok Sabha speaker, etc. don’t represent any political party,” BJP MP Nishikant Dubey told Firstpost.

“Whether a proceeding in the Parliament will take place smoothly or not is secondary. The primary objective is to honour the Parliament and its protocol. By boycotting the breakfast, the Congress has tried to set a wrong precedent,” Dubey said.

A political analyst, who opted to remain anonymous, is of the view that this move by the Congress might give a wrong message to the public "as if Congress doesn’t have any respect for the Parliament. It may go against them, as MPs from other opposition parties with whom Congress would like to ally, attended the breakfast. It reflects an immature act".

Moreover, the Congress party also has to keep its own house in order first before taking on the government. It is noteworthy that three of its members had remained absent from the voting in Rajya Sabha on Thursday for the election of the deputy chairman of the Upper House.

While the government has come up with its reply on the Rafael deal, the Congress which apparently is not satisfied intends to project Rafael deal as a counter to NDA’s pursuance of the Bofors scam, by pressing for a JPC and attacking the government. Instead of attending the breakfast, the party chose to stage a dharna ahead of the session, near the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the Parliament House on Friday.

Even if we consider only the floor of the Parliament as the battleground, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has won two litmus tests -- one in the Lok Sabha and the other at the Rajya Sabha.

The NDA government had comfortably won the No-confidence Motion moved against it by the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Congress on 20 July. It was for the first time in 15 years that the Lower House of the Parliament had held a debate on a No-confidence Motion. The numbers were on the Modi government’s side that helped them to win the no-trust motion with confidence.

The floor of the Upper House witnessed another victory of the NDA on Thursday when the ruling NDA nominee and Janata Dal (United) leader Harivansh Narayan Singh got elected as Rajya Sabha deputy chairman by defeating Congress candidate BK Hariprasad.

Congress had recently said that it would gherao the Modi-led NDA government inside the Parliament along with opposition parties on issues like Rafael deal, banking scams, corruption, agrarian distress, unemployment, etc.

Breaching protocol doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction if Congress hopes to corner the government. 


Updated Date: Aug 10, 2018 12:57 PM

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