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Rafale: Rahul attacks PM, Jaitley says Congress chief peddling lies

Rafale: Rahul attacks PM, Jaitley says Congress chief peddling lies
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New Delhi: The Opposition and the government were involved in a bitter war of words on the Rafale issue in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, with Rahul Gandhi saying that Prime Minister Narendra Modi "does not have guts" to face questions in Parliament and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accusing the Congress chief of peddling "lies" and "falsehood".

The lower house witnessed frequent adjournments as barbs flew from both sides and Opposition Members tried to disrupt speeches of rival leaders during a nearly three-hour debate.

The discussions ended abruptly midway after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan suspended 24 AIADMK members for five days due to the "grave disorder" they caused with their protests in the Well of the House.

In an embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, its ally Shiv Sena also supported the Opposition's demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) into the Rafale deal, claiming that people say the aircraft is good, but the deal is bad.

Following Gandhi's hard-hitting attack on the government, Jaitley led the government's charge in a scathing counter-attack as he referred to alleged defence scams during the Congress rule and said: "conspirators" of past defence scams had the "audacity" to target the Modi dispensation.

He also ruled out a JPC probe- a demand made by most opposition leaders, including Gandhi- saying there was no need for it as the Supreme Court has already satisfied its "conscience" on the issue.

Targeting Gandhi, the BJP leader said he would have played in the lap of 'Q', an apparent reference to Ottavio Quattrocchi- allegedly involved in the Bofors case.

Jaitley also mentioned the recent disclosure allegedly made by AgustaWestland accused Christian Michel and referred to terms like "Mrs G" and "the Italian lady" and "her son" to attack the Congress leadership.

The House also witnessed high drama after Gandhi sought the Speaker's permission to play an audio tape, purportedly of a Goa minister, on the Rafale deal.

The Speaker also disallowed Gandhi's request to play the clip.

In his speech, Gandhi referred to Modi's comments in an interview that no personal allegation was levelled against him in the matter and said this was not true as the "entire nation" is asking him a direct question on the contract for the purchase of fighter aircraft.

Hitting back, Jaitley said, "it is a tragedy that the grand old party which was headed by the legends in the past is now headed by a gentleman who doesn't have a basic understanding of combat aircraft."

Mentioning alleged defence scams during the Congress rule, Jaitley in a repartee, quoted from a James Bond movie which, he added, the Congress president must have seen.

"In the movie, Bond says if it happens for the first time then it is happenstance, if it happens twice, it is coincidence, and if it is thrice, then it is a conspiracy. Congress president is doing the same," he said.

Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress was quick to take a dig at Jaitley for what he said was wrongly quoting Bond.

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