- Rahul Gandhi said PM "doesn't have the guts" to face questions on Rafale
- Rahul Gandhi said defence minster "hiding" behind AIADMK members in house
- Arun Jaitley raised AgustaWestland, National Herald to attack Congress
In an acrimonious debate in parliament on Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "hiding in his room" and "lacking the guts" to face questions on the Rafale jet deal before being targeted in a lacerating rejoinder by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for what he called "repeated lies".
Paper planes flown by opposition members made an unprecedented sight in the house.
Rahul Gandhi put up "four questions" related to the Rafale deal for 36 jet fighters, repeating his allegations that the government settled for a less-than-favourable deal to help industrialist Anil Ambani. "Yesterday, the PM seemed scared and tired in his interview. He said no one was questioning him on the Rafale deal. The whole country is questioning you," said the Congress president, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate the Rafale deal.
Mr Gandhi also asked to be allowed to play an audio tape on Rafale that his party claims is the recording of a Goa minister quoting Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, earlier union defence minister, as saying that files related to the Rafale jet deal were "in his bedroom". But when the Speaker repeatedly asked whether he was ready to authenticate the tape and Mr Jaitley objected, Mr Gandhi said, "I understand that you are terrified, I will not play the tape, if it makes you happy."
When the Speaker asked him not to name Anil Ambani, a non-MP, Mr Gandhi slyly referred to the businessman as "AA".
Mr Jaitley, on whose challenge the Congress agreed to today's debate in parliament, delivered a ferocious comeback. "This man lies repeatedly... There are some people who have a natural dislike for truth. This is a case where there is a dislike for truth," he said.
"It is a tragedy for the country that the Grand Old Party is headed today by a gentleman who doesn't have the understanding of what a combat aircraft is," said the minister in a no-holds-barred attack.
Referring to the Supreme Court's judgment last month that came as a validation for the government's decision on the deal, he said if the top court is satisfied, why would a joint parliamentary committee, which is divided on party lines, review it.
Raising the AgustaWestland deal, the National Herald and the Bofors cases, the finance minister, borrowing a quote from the James Bond movies, said: "If it happens once, it's happenstance; if it happens twice, it's a coincidence; but if it happens thrice, then it's a conspiracy."
Referring to Mr Gandhi's "AA" digs, Mr Jaitley said: "If we are into abbreviations, can I ask, was he playing in the lap of one Q, about who in the Bofors case, the CEO had in his diary written - Q must be protected at all accounts."
While his speech was on, opposition members started flying paper planes, pushing the Speaker to admonish them for "childish behaviour" and forcing an adjournment.
Congress member Gurjeet Singh Aujla told reporters: "We threw the paper planes as the discussion was on Rafale. So talk about Rafale. But they were talking about Bofors, Agusta..."
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