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Nirmala Sitharaman 
Nirmala Sitharaman 
National

Rafale row: Oppn slam Govt, Nirmala Sitharaman dismisses charge

Agency News

New Delhi, Feb 8: A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended good wishes to all Opposition parties for 'healthy competition' during fast approaching Parliamentary elections, the BJP-led NDA regime and the opposition parties clashed in the Lok Sabha fiercely on Friday over the Rafale aircraft deal.

While Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the slogan shouting Congress members and others that they were only "flogging a dead horse", Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge accused the ruling side of being 'desh drohi' (harming national interests).

The issue figured prominently during Question Hour and later during Zero Hour with Congress members led by Gaurav Gogoi among others trooping into the well and demanding that a JPC should be formed at the earliest.

Members from opposition parties Congress, Trinamool Congress and TDP tried to show a unity of purpose and repeatedly raised anti-government slogans targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi especially.

Opposition members Gogoi, Sushmita Dev, Rajiv Satav (all Congress), Prasun Banerjee, Arpita Ghosh, Kalyan Banerjee and Saugata Roy (all Trinamool) and Ashok Gajapathi Raju (TDP) carried placards displaying reports in a section of media that claimed that a senior Defence ministry official had objected to 'interference' from the Prime Minister's Office.

Mr Kharge and Trinamool member Roy said media reports have suggested that the PMO and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had especially interfered into the working of the Defence Ministry and even a senior bureaucrat had objected to the same.

Citing internal noting in the government, Saugata Roy of Trinamool Congress said PMO officials and Mr Doval were "having parallel parleys with officials of French government" on Rafale.

He said the senior official had objected that PMO's interference had "weakened the negotiating position of the Ministry of Defence".

Mr Kharge said what has been reported in a leading daily was 'not a small matter' and it related to national security.

"Yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, we in the Congress are trying to weaken Air Force and that we are working against national interests, instead it is you who are being 'desh drohi (working against national interests)," Mr Kharge told the agitated BJP members.

Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said when everything has been discussed and Supreme Court has also given a ruling, what was the justification in raising the same issue time and again and disturb the proceedings of the House.

Amid anti-government slogans from the opposition members, responding to the members, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the opposition leaders and also a section of media were only "flogging a dead horse".

The Minister said during the debate on Rafale on January 4 during Winter Session, she had already answered to all queries and controversies on the Rafale deal with France.

Moreover, she said the media report smacks of motivation as it did not include in the report the noting from the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar who had said categorically that there was "nothing wrong and everything was on right track".

She said the newspaper should have published Mr Parrikar's response to the noting where he had asked the officer concerned to remain 'calm'.

"The routine queries on any matter from the Prime Minister's Office should not be taken as interference....," she said adding if that was the case, what was Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) doing during the UPA dispensation.

"The NAC was virtually running the PMO," he said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Narendra Singh Tomar also said that it was not in the fitness of things that opposition parties should raise an issue in Parliament based on media reports.

"On Rafale, we have detailed debate in the House and still the opposition members are raising the issue and disturbing the proceedings of the House when we are to take up the Budget...This is not proper," he said. (UNI)