“Can’t gag PM to speak on corruption”, Jaitley to Cong

RSTV Bureau
FILE: New Delhi: A file photo of AgustaWestland (AW101) VVIP Airforce Helicopter. Photo - PTI

FILE: New Delhi: A file photo of AgustaWestland (AW101) VVIP Airforce Helicopter.
Photo – PTI

The controversy on AgustaWestland deal continues to spark sharp exchange in Parliament between the ruling party and the Congress. Under the ambit of allegations, the latter attracted criticism from the treasury as it continued with its protest against Prime Minister Modi’s remarks on the controversy in an election rally.

“Prime Minister is entitled to speak on corruption both inside and outside the House and he cannot be gagged”, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha.

The issue has led to a heated tiff between the two following media reports of an Italian court, which convicted AgustaWestland chief Giuseppe Orsi, reportedly observing alleged payment of bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs. 3,600 crore deal.

The principal opposition party, had earlier in the day, moved a breach of privilege motion against PM Modi and Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar over the former’s remarks at an election rally on the VVIP chopper deal issue.

Defence-Minister-Manohar-Parrikar-in-Rajya-Sabha-on-AgustaWestlandMoving a breach of privilege notice against the Prime Minister and Defence Minister Parrikar, senior Congress MP Shantaram Naik said that he has moved the motion because of “lies” told outside the House about UPA leaders taking money in the chopper deal.

Prior to Naik’s motion, the opposition party had staged protest in the Upper House over the issue yesterday, claiming that the PM had “contradicted” Manohar Parrikar by stating during an election rally that Italian court has indicted Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the chopper deal, leading to washout of proceedings.

At that point, Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley, who is also leader of the Upper House, stressed that “since when has an election speech by one politician against another outside the House started to be construed as breach of privilege?”

Jaitley’s contention was also shared by Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, who told Shantaram Naik to make a zero hour submission as per the notice he had given and not to raise any other issue like breach of privilege notice.

Speaking on the issue, Congress leader Anand Sharma claimed that statements made by the Prime Minister in the House or outside are as Prime Minister of the country and there cannot be any distinction between them. “The Prime Minister has contradicted his Defence Minister,” he said.

Responding to Sharma, Arun Jaitley once again retorted that the Prime Minister cannot be gagged against speaking on corruption.

In the Lok Sabha too, Congress leader Veerappa Moily moved the notice for breach of privilege against PM Modi. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the notice is under her consideration and she will allow them to speak only after she takes a decision.

(With inputs from the PTI)