Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said on Wednesday that he had information about “personal corruption” charges against Prime Minister Narendra Modi because of which he (the PM) was too terrified to let him speak in Parliament. This follows Mr Gandhi’s earlier remark that there would be an earthquake if he was allowed to speak in the House.
Though Mr Gandhi did not give any detail, the sensational charge had a battery of Union ministers mocking the Congress leader, calling him “desperate and frustrated”. Mr Gandhi has been criticising the PM over his shock demonetisation move last month, and the latest bombshell will further deteriorate the government-Opposition relations.
“It is the biggest joke of the year… I don’t think anyone takes his comments seriously. Congress itself is very scared when Rahul Gandhi speaks as the party has to defend his words. That’s the level of threat he poses to his own party,” said Union minister Kiren Rijiju.
The government’s November 8 currency replacement move led to a crippling cash crunch, hitting India’s largely cash-based economy and clouding growth prospects. The scramble of cash also caused a string of deaths, prompting an unrelenting Opposition attack on the government, disrupting an almost entire Parliament session.
As soon as Lok Sabha was adjourned after yet another day of acrimonious exchanges, Mr Gandhi in a rare press conference and the first-ever with leaders of Opposition parties, said that the government was preventing him from speaking in the House as the PM was “personally terrified of letting him open his mouth”.
“For the last one month, we have been trying to have a discussion. Pretty much unconditionally we are ready to have a discussion,” he said, flanked by leader of 16 opposition parties.
The BJP hit back and referred to a reported sting operation purportedly showing leaders of some parties trying to exchange old notes for a commission, and said that discussions should take place on both “note bandi” (currency switch) and “note jugaad” (illegal exchange).
The Congress leader’s tirade came after a shouting match in Lok Sabha with the treasury and Opposition benches shouting at each other. The government has already indicated that it was apprehensive that once Mr Gandhi opens the debate on demonetisation, the Opposition would simply walk out or disrupt, and not let the government voices be heard.
The BJP dismissed Mr Gandhi’s remarks as “a damp squib”. Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said the Gandhi family scion had become “desperate and totally frustrated and was thus raising such a hue and cry”. “The Opposition doesn’t have any intention of having any debate,” he said.
Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar said that Mr Gandhi should give evidence of his claims outside Parliament if he’s not allowed to speak, or apologise.
AAP leader and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal immediately joined the slugfest but attacked both the Congress and the BJP. “If Rahul Gandhi actually has papers on Modiji’s personal involvement in corruption, why doesn’t he expose it outside Parliament? Friendly match – BJP says it has AgustaWestland against Congress. Congress says it has Sahara/Birla against BJP. Both don’t disclose,” he said in a series of tweets.