Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday stepped up the campaign against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, demanding that the government probe him too. “Why can’t there be a criminal investigation against him also,” Gandhi said, pointing to the Centre’s decision to probe the leak of official documents from the defence ministry.
The Congress president’s fresh attack comes a day after the government’s top law officer told the Supreme Court that the documents cited by lawyer Prashant Bhushan were ‘stolen’. The top court was hearing requests to review its December verdict that rejected the demand for a probe into the deal to purchase Rafale fighter jets from French aviation firm Dassault Aviation.
One document is an eight-page dissent note written by three domain experts in the Indian negotiating team. In another, a top defence ministry official complained about the PMO conducting “parallel parleys” with the French authorities in the controversial Rafale deal which, Rahul Gandhi cited, to accuse the PMO of influencing the deal. “PM Modi performed bypass surgery in Rafale deal,” he said.
Attorney General KK Venugopal also told the three-judge bench that the government could invoke the Official Secrets Act against The Hindu newspaper, which had published the papers.
“Yes of course take action on those involved in this missing documents case but also initiate an inquiry on PMO making parallel negotiations,” Gandhi said at a media conference in the national capital. Sharpening his attack moments later, he asked: “Why doesn’t the PM get a probe ordered if he isn’t guilty”.
The ruling BJP-led national coalition has rejected the Congress campaign against the prime minister over the deal to buy 36 fighter jets on several elections. In the court yesterday, the Centre also told the judges that defence deals could not be judicially examined. Outside, the BJP often accuses the Congress of acting at the behest of vested interests that the government says, would hurt national security.
At Thursday’s press conference, Rahul Gandhi kept his focus on the government’s line that some Rafale papers had been stolen before he broadened his attack.
“Gayab ho gaya (It has vanished) is the government’s new tagline,” Rahul Gandhi said at the start of his briefing.
“First”, he said, “it was the 2 crore jobs for youth that vanished. Then the promised right price to farmers for their crops, then the promised 15 lakh to be deposited in bank accounts…Now, Rafale file has disappeared,“ he went on before accusing the government of trying to evade an investigation.
The Rafale deal has become controversial with the Opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is ?1,670 crore for each, three times the ?526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It has also claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with HAL.
The NDA has not disclosed details of the price, but the UPA deal, struck in 2012, was not a viable one, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar has previously said, implying that it would have never been closed and that, therefore, any comparison is moot. Indeed, the UPA was not able to close the deal until 2014, largely over discussions related to pricing of items not included in the initial bid.
The deal has also become controversial on account of the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault is with the Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani this opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance have repeatedly denied this.
12 Rajya Sabha MPs suspended for ‘violent behaviour’ in previous Parliament session
12 Opposite MPs were suspended from the Rajya Sabha for the remainder of the Winter Session because of ‘uncontrollable conduct’ during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
The authority notice said, “This House takes cognizance and firmly sentences the absolute negligence to the power of the Chair, complete maltreatment of rules of the House steadily accordingly wilfully hindering the matter of House through their exceptional demonstrations of offense, derisive, rowdy and fierce conduct and purposeful assaults on security workforce on the last day of 254th Session of Rajya Sabha for example August 11.”
Rundown OF SUSPENDED MPs
1. Elamaram Kareem (CPM)
2. Phulo Devi Netam (INC)
3. Chhaya Verma (INC)
4. Ripun Bora (INC)
5. Binoy Viswam (CPI)
6. Rajamani Patel (INC)
7. Dola Sen (TMC)
8. Shanta Chhetri (TMC)
9. Syed Nasir Hussain (INC)
10. Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena)
11. Anil Desai (Shiv Sena)
12. Akhilesh Prasad Singh (INC)
Because of consistent interruptions and intermissions as the Opposition fought over the Pegasus sneaking around line and the three ranch laws, the Monsoon Session of Parliament finished two days sooner than what was planned for August.
On the last day of the meeting, Opposition MPs purportedly jumped on the authorities’ table, waved dark material and tossed records when the House started a conversation on ranchers’ dissent against new change laws. They likewise purportedly mauled the security staff
Notwithstanding, the Opposition affirmed that their MPs were messed up by the security faculty.
Following this, Rajya Sabha executive Venkaiah Naidu and Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla had chosen to embrace a definite assessment of such rowdy scenes previously and the future game-plan in such cases.
Navjot Singh Sidhu resigns as Punjab Congress chief
Navjot Singh Sindhu who had been appointed President of Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee on 23rd July had resigned from the party. This incident just took place just before Punjab’s former prime minister Amarinder Singh came on a visit to Delhi. In his letter after resignation he mentioned he might have resigned as a President but he cares about the welfare of the people of Punjab and he will continue to serve Congress.
“Nothing Political”: Sonu Sood, Arvind Kejriwal Meet For A Delhi Scheme
Arvind Kejriwal, whose AAP is the majority opposition in Punjab, also did not comment on Mr Sood’s possible entry into politics, and instead stressed his “inspiring” work.
Actor Sonu Sood on Friday played down talk of his political debut ahead of Assembly elections in Punjab next year, following speculation that either he or his sister – Malvika Sachar, a well-known social activist in the state’s Moga area – could contest on a Congress ticket.
Mr Sood was interacting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for ‘Desh ke Mentor‘ – a programme to guide students in government-run schools.
‘Sonu Soodji has been agreed to be a brand ambassador of our soon-to-be-launched ‘Desh ke Mentor‘ programme. It is matter of joy for us,” Mr Kejriwal said at the event.
When asked about his potential entry into politics, Sonu Sood told reporters “politics was not discussed… this is a bigger issue than that”.
“There was nothing political… I have always been saying this. Politics was not discussed. This is a bigger issue… I don’t think there can be a bigger issue,” he said, adding, “People always say, ‘If you want to do good work then come to politics …’ It is a wonderful field… but we didn’t discuss.”
Mr Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party is the majority opposition party in Punjab, also did not comment on Mr Sood’s possible entry into politics, and instead stressed on his “inspiring” work.
“Sonu Sood is an inspiration for the entire nation… Anywhere in the country, if someone is in trouble, (he) contacts and helps them. This is (his) wonder and charisma,” Mr Kejriwal said as he appointed Mr Sood as the brand ambassador for the programme.
The Delhi government’s ‘Education Mentoring Programme’ is part of its ‘Youth for Education’ initiative, and will see over 200 B.Tech, M.Tech and PhD students from the Indira Gandhi Delhi Technological University mentor around 1,000 school students.
The actor took to Twitter to say he is “honoured and humbled” to be the brand ambassador for the programme.
Truly honoured and humbled to be the brand ambassador of Desh Ke Mentor a programme which has given me an opportunity to mentor lakhs of students across India. Thank you so much @ArvindKejriwal sir for making me a part of this initiative.
Jai Hind ??
— sonu sood (@SonuSood) August 27, 2021
Announcing the programme in May, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is also the Education Minister, said he hoped it would lead the way for more women in science.
“Although our nation is seeing major innovations in every field… these are mostly led by men. The participation of women is abysmal … especially in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects”, he said.
Mr Sood also discussed ‘Pravasi Rojagar‘ – an online job portal he set up to help migrant labourers.
“I was connected with the 7.5 lakh migrants. I had their data… Whenever I sent some home, I used to ask if they were coming back. They told me that they would if they got jobs. They were scared (thinking) parents might stop them from going back to (cities) where they worked,” he explained.
The popular actor helped hundreds of migrant workers (mainly from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh) return home after they were left stranded during last year’s Covid lockdown.
He has also provided financial assistance to around 400 families of migrant workers, and helped people during the oxygen crisis that marked the second wave of infections.
“I’ve decided to help families of the deceased or injured migrants for them to have a secure future. I feel it’s my personal responsibility to support them,” he was quoted by news agency PTI.
He even launched a toll-free helpline number to help those who needed assistance.
With input from ANI, PTI
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