New Delhi, (IANS) Stepping up its offensive, the Congress on Monday continued its vociferous protests in and outside parliament and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was “very close” to former IPL chief Lalit Modi. The Samajwadi Party, however, signalled breaking of ranks with the Congress over the protests in parliament.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hit back at the Congress, blaming party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi for the-three week stalemate in parliament.
He said it was a pretext to stop passage of the Goods and Services Tax bill.
The BJP also dismissed the Congress allegations against Narendra Modi as “laughable and childish”.
The logjam in parliament continued on Monday as well, with both houses witnessing adjournments due to vociferous protests by the Congress.
Outside, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi attacked the prime minister for praising the Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers at a rally in Gaya.
“The prime minister ignored the fact that there is a business relationship between a criminal and the chief minister of Rajasthan,” Rahul Gandhi said.
He said parliament would function after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj disclosed her family’s financial transactions with former Indian Premier League (IPL) chief Lalit Modi, facing investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
“Please explain how much money of Lalit Modi has come into your family’s account,” he asked.
Congress leader Kapil Sibal told the media on Monday that Narendra Modi as the then chief minister of Gujarat, along with the present BJP president Amit Shah, was “apparently involved in manipulating bids” with the help of Lalit Modi to ensure that the Gujarat Cricket Association favours an “industrialist friend” of his (Narendra Modi) “with an IPL franchise”.
Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar rejected the Congress allegations.
“If the Congress feels this (Lalit Modi) issue is of national importance, why is it not allowing a discussion?” Javadekar asked.
He asked if the Congress agreed with Lalit Modi on his allegations concerning Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
Jaitley told reporters outside parliament that “in the pretext of Sushma Swaraj (issue), the real motive of the Congress is that they don’t want the GST Bill to be passed. They want India’s growth to suffer.”
Jaitley said most of the Congress leaders were against disruption in parliament, “but their two top leaders want to stall the house”.
He alleged that the Congress’s priority was not to strengthen the country’s economy. “Instead, they want to hurt country’s economic growth story.”
Meanwhile, in a signal of cracks in the opposition unity, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav assured Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Monday that his party would not join the protests led by the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
Mahajan had called the meeting with representatives of all political parties to find a way out of the logjam in the lower house.
According to sources, Yadav said the Samajwadi Party wants the house to function.
He also said the house cannot function according to the whims and fancies of the Congress leadership.
The party had earlier not supported the Congress demand for Sushma Swaraj’s resignation.
The Congress is demanding the resignations of Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for their alleged help to Lalit Modi, and of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
On Monday, the Lok Sabha was adjourned after three adjournments due to protests by the Congress members who raised anti-government slogans, carried placards and came near the speaker’s podium to demand the resignations of three BJP leaders.
As 25 Congress members returned to the house after being suspended for five days, disruptions in proceedings of the lower house, as had happened last week, were witnessed.
In the Rajya Sabha, which was adjourned for the day following two adjournments, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the government of not making any attempt to end the logjam.
But Jaitley denied the allegation.
“The government was not allowed to speak by the Congress members. This is the selective approach of the Congress. Is this the way to conduct the house?” Jaitley asked.
Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien responded by saying: “Selective blocking is not acceptable. I have never seen such a practice.”