A day after engaging in a war of words with the BJP over the price of the Rafale fighter jets to be procured from France, the Congress on Tuesday sought to move a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman.
In its letter to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said that they were making the request for the notice over Sitharaman's statements during the debate on the no-confidence motion. "The minister's assertions on the floor of the House are absolutely false. The honourable minister has willfully misled not only the members of the House, but also the entire nation," he said.
On Friday, Sitharaman had said in the Lok Sabha that the government could not reveal the commercial cost of the jets because of a clause in the Rafale agreement India and France had signed in 2008. The Congress said that the deal is restricted only to classified information and not the purchase or acquisition aspects of the deal.
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"The prime minister has, along with the defence minister, deliberately misled the House. It is therefore requested that this notice of breach of privileges be accepted and referred to the privilege committee of the House for further proceedings," Kharge said in the letter to the Speaker.
The prime minister and his Cabinet, as per the Constitution, are collectively accountable to Parliament and through it to the people of the country, the Congress leader said in the letter.
He said that the government, through the Minister of State for Defence, had on 18 November, 2016, in reply to a question in Lok Sabha, revealed the price of Rafale aircraft as approximately Rs 670 crore.
Again on 19 March, 2018, the price was disclosed by the Minister of State for Defence in Rajya Sabha, he claimed.
According to procedure, it is for the Speaker to decide whether to refer the matter to privilege committee or not.
Alleging corruption in the Rafale deal, the Congress has been demanding details, including the cost of equipment and weapons, but the government has refused to share the information citing a secrecy pact with France.
During the debate on the no-confidence motion on 20 July, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had accused the Centre of indulging in corruption in the deal and described Modi as a "bhagidaar" (collaborator) in cases of alleged graft, not a "chowkidaar" (guard).
In his reply, Modi had said, "Just because of one careless allegation in the House on the Rafale deal, both nations had to release statements. We should not indulge in such childish behaviour."
The French government had issued a statement after the Congress chief raised the Rafale deal issue in Lok Sabha during the debate on no-confidence motion. "We have noted the statement of Rahul Gandhi before the Indian Parliament. France and India concluded in 2008 a security agreement, which legally binds the two States to protect the classified information provided by the partner, that could impact security and operational capabilities of the defence equipment of India or France," the spokesperson of the French ministry of Europe and foreign affairs said.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Jul 24, 2018 21:56 PM