New Delhi: After Union Minister Prakash Javadekar criticised former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi for walking out of the meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, saying it was an insult to the parliamentary system, the Congress leader in a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla claimed that he was not allowed to “speak” at the meeting and sought his intervention.
According to party sources, Rahul Gandhi in his letter to Birla urged the latter to ensure that the right of elected MPs to speak freely in parliamentary panel meetings is protected and they are allowed to speak.
He also said that the Speaker, being the custodian of the Parliament, should ensure that the discussions and presentations in the panel on defence are in consonance with its role and objectives.
“It is the right of a member to point out digressions from the agenda and the purpose of the standing committee. The committee is free to disagree with what I say, but the fact that the chairman does not even permit a member to speak is a sad comment on how the government handles military affairs,” the Congress leader said in the letter.
“Sir, as Speaker of the Lok Sabha and custodian of the House, I urge you to intervene and ensure that the discussions and presentations held in the defence committee are in consonance with the role and objective of the institution and that the right of elected MPs to speak freely is protected,” Rahul Gandhi wrote in his letter.
The Congress MP from Kerala’s Wayanad also expressed his dismay over the contents of the meeting and the manner in which it was conducted, saying, “It is meant to provide legislative oversight on the policies and decisions of the defence ministry.”
He said the agenda for the discussion at the meet was military uniforms, but taking into account the current military situation, he felt it was surprising.
“You are aware that we are currently facing a serious national security challenge on our borders and that China has forcibly occupied our territory and martyred 20 of our soldiers. There are many critical matters to discuss at a time like this,” he said.
He said that he was “extremely disturbed” to find that the Chief of Defence Staff and the top brass of the Army, Navy and Air Force, who have important matters to deal with, had been asked by the chairman to spend an entire afternoon explaining the colours and different types of uniforms and insignia worn by different ranks in the forces.
However, Rahul Gandhi pointed out that he was repeatedly prevented from speaking and the panel chairman said “Aap nahi bolenge”.
“I politely requested the chairman a number of times to allow me to complete my intervention. But he refused to allow me to do so. To register my protest at being prevented from expressing my views, I had no option but to leave the room,” he said.
The Congress leader said since he was away to his constituency Wayanad when the last meeting of the panel was held, he had sent suggestions to the Parliamentary Panel on Defence chairman Jual Oram that were of critical importance for discussion in the panel.
Rahul Gandhi had sought to discuss the country’s strategy against China’s aggressive posture on the northern border in coordination with Pakistan and the country’s response to China’s reusable autonomous armed drones and unmanned systems strategy, its approach to information warfare and its rocket, strategic force and space capabilities.
The development same after Javadekar earlier in the day slammed the Congress leader saying that he should first learn to respect the constitutional institutions.
Rahul Gandhi had walked out of the meeting, held on Wednesday, alleging that he was not allowed to speak.
Speaking to the media here, Javadekar said, “Rahul Gandhi walked out of a Parliamentary Committee on Defence meeting. In the last one-and-a-half years, there have been a total of 14 meetings. Rahul Gandhi was present in just two of them. He was absent in the other 12. He was not even present in the agenda-setting meeting for the year.”
Targetting the Congress leader, Javadekar said, “In the two meetings that he attended, he will again say that important topics were not being discussed.”
“This is an insult to the parliamentary system and constitutional institutions. Rahul Gandhi should learn to respect constitutional institutions or else his role in the democracy will be negligible,” Javadekar said.
The minister also pointed out that when Rahul Gandhi was in power during the Congress-led UPA rule, he had torn a cabinet decision and had thrown it away in the dustbin.
“That is how much respect he has for the Constitutional procedures,” Javadekar said.