Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj finally broke her silence in the Parliament over the Lalit Modi controversy, the issue which continues to stir an impasse between Opposition and the NDA government. Speaking on the floor of the upper house, Ms Swaraj defended herself saying that she never made request to the British government seeking the issue of travel documents to controversial former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
Asserting that all allegations against her were “baseless and unfounded”, the Union External Minister claimed, “I did not make any request to the British government for issue of travel documents to Lalit Modi.”
But Sushma Swaraj’s response raked up another controversy with the Opposition, in particular the Congress party, urging Chairman Hamid Ansari not to take her response on record claiming it was “illegal”. In its complaint to the Chairman, the Opposition contended that Ms Swaraj’s speech on the issue should not be taken on record. But the Chair later declared it as a “response” on the floor of the house.
Congress member Madhusudan Mistry had raised the issue in the House during the Question Hour but could not be heard in the din as the Congress MPs along with some other members of the opposition continued to pitch their protest against the BJP-led NDA government.
Responding to the current stalemate inside the house, Sushma Swaraj began by saying that she had conveyed on “day one that she was ready to respond to all charges being made against her”.
“For two weeks I have been coming to the House every day in the hope of being able to make a statement and clarify on the issue,” Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said.
Earlier in the day, the house witnessed the opposition protest as soon as it started. Deputy leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma alleged that the Parliament has been in a stalemate because of the government’s “arrogance”.
“This House cannot be in order unless issues have been responded by the Prime Minister on fixing accountability and responsibility,” Mr. Sharma said before the house.
But the moment Anand Sharma sought PM’s response, Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien, citing Rule 267, told him “unless you start the discussion, Prime Minister cannot respond.”
This moment was then seized upon by Leader of the house Arun Jaitley who said that if Anand Sharma was unwilling to initiate a discussion, Ms Swaraj will speak.
However, the Congress members trooped into the Well of the House shouting slogans seeking resignations of Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in connection with the Lalit Modi controversy and Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the Vyapam scam, leading to the adjournment of the house.
(With inputs from the PTI)