Pralhad Joshi said the treasury benches were "very enthusiastically" waiting for Mr Gandhi's speech.
Taking a dig at Rahul Gandhi, Union Minister Pralhad Joshi asked why the Congress leader did not open the debate on the no-confidence motion against the government today and said the treasury benches were "very enthusiastically" waiting for his speech.
The comment invited an angry reaction from the Congress, which said the minister was revealing what happened in the Lok Sabha Speaker's office and should refrain from doing so.
Mr Gandhi's status as a Member of Parliament was restored yesterday and the Congress had been pushing for it to happen early so he could participate in the debate. The Congress leader was present in the Lok Sabha today.
When Speaker Om Birla called on Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi to begin the debate on the motion at noon, Mr Joshi, who is the Parliamentary Affairs minister, got up to say he had a point to make. Mr Joshi said that, as per his knowledge, the Speaker's office had received a letter at 11.55 am that Mr Gandhi would be speaking in place of Mr Gogoi.
"What happened in the space of five minutes, sir? What is the problem, sir? We are very enthusiastic to listen to Mr Rahul Gandhi," Mr Joshi said.
The minister's comments invited a sharp retort from Mr Gogoi, who asked, "Speaker sir, should we also reveal what's happening in your office and what requests are being received? You are the protector of this House. Should we also reveal what the Prime Minister has said in your office?"
He was interrupted by an angry Amit Shah, who said the Congress leader was levelling a serious allegation and he should reveal whatever he wanted to. The Home Minister was backed by Mr Joshi, who said, "He (Mr Gogoi) cannot take the name of the PM and the Chair and level such baseless allegations."
When Mr Gogoi said the Congress had always respected the confidentiality of everything that the Speaker told them in his office, Mr Birla said, "My office is also part of the House. You should never make any comments that have no basis in fact."
Mr Joshi said he had simply revealed what was already in the public domain and had not let out any secrets. Hitting out at him, Mr Gogoi said, "You are the Parliamentary Affairs minister. You should remember your duties and not reveal what is said in the Speaker's office."
The no-confidence motion, which has practically no chance of getting passed, is an attempt by the opposition to compel Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak on the ongoing violence in Manipur.
The INDIA coalition's demand for a discussion on the issue under Rule 267 and the government's refusal to do so have led to a logjam in both Houses of parliament since the monsoon session began on July 20.
Rahul Gandhi, who was elected from the Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, was reinstated in the parliament yesterday. On August 4, the Supreme Court had stayed his conviction in the criminal defamation case over the "Modi Surname" remark, but maintained that his comments were not in good taste, especially for a person in public life.
The bench had observed that the trial judge had awarded the maximum sentence of two years in the case and noted that Mr Gandhi would not have been disqualified if the period of sentence was even a day shorter.