Rahul springs into action in Lok Sabha

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Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, missing for the most part in the current Parliament session -- and generally maintaining a low profile since the party’s disastrous Lok Sabha campaign -- decided to make his presence felt on Wednesday when he stormed into the well of the Lok Sabha along with other Congress members demanding an urgent discussion on communal incidents in the country through an adjournment motion.

This is the first time in 10 years that Rahul had adopted this tactic of storming the well.

Minister for parliamentary affairs Venkaiah Naidu opposed the discussion plea, saying there was no communal disaffection in the country as was being claimed by the Congress.

The normally reticent Rahul, who prefers the Lok Sabha backbenches to the front, even questioned the impartiality of speaker Sumitra Mahajan, drawing return fire from the ruling BJP, which questioned his 'contrived aggression'.

Later, an unusually aggressive Rahul went out to speak to reporters in Parliament, telling them, "We are not being allowed to speak in Parliament. We are asking for discussion. There is a mentality in the government that discussion is not acceptable. Everybody feels it, their party feels it, we feel it, everybody feels it."

“There is a mood in Parliament that only one man’s voice counts for anything in this country...The speaker, I mean...It is completely one-sided, partiality. That’s what we are raising,” he told the journalists.

An upset Rahul is later understood to have today conveyed his displeasure to senior BJP leader L K Advani about the opposition allegedly not being allowed to speak on important issues in Parliament.

Rahul and Advani are believed to have had a chance interaction in the corridor of Parliament. After they came face-to-face, Rahul is understood to have told the BJP patriarch that his party is not being allowed to speak on issues, sources said.

The Congress vice-president has been under increasing attack from party members – some of them directly – for Congress’s all-time low Lok Sabha tally in the last general elections. Several state Congress units have seen open rebellion and defections. In 2014, four important states, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand and Haryana are lated to go for assembly elections and Congress is under pressure to perform. Adverse results are likely to further raise questions marks on the Gandhi leadership. Rahul’s stand-out aggression on Wednesday was dismissed by the BJP as an internal problem of the Congress, which was being sought to be foisted upon the house and speaker. Finance minister Arun Jaitley hit out at the Congress saying its vice-president’s ‘contrived aggression’ in Lok Sabha was a compulsion as the party leadership was facing a ‘palace coup’ within.

He said that the Congress scion was trying to make an issue out of non-issue. “The reason is very clear. Today a section of the leadership of the Congress party, because if its inability to lead, has been under pressure. They have been facing a palace coup. It’s a coup within their own party,” he said.

Jaitley was apparently referring to demands from some Congressmen urging Priyanka Gandhi to play an active role in the party but he parried questions whether he was referring to Rahul, who was seen snoozing in Parliament a couple of weeks ago.

The finance minister also had a dig at Rahul Gandhi, saying his charge was surprising because “some leaders don't speak at all in the house and then say we are not allowed to speak”.

Referring to Rahul’s charge that they are not being allowed to speak in the house, he said the Congress party has been participating in every discussion. “At times they have disturbed the house and not allowed to go on. There is not a single instance where they are not being allowed to raise issues”.

Day after day, Jaitley said, established leaders of the party were speaking in the house. “It’s an internal compulsion within the party. For that, you need not drag the house or presiding officer into the debate,” he said.

The minister said if Rahul Gandhi wanted to show he is doing something, it would be better if he led his own party rather than develop a contrived aggression against functioning of the house which otherwise has been functioning well.

“I think it is time for the party to introspect within itself. Questions are being raised about the competence of the leadership.

ranjitbhushan@mydigitalfc.com

(With inputs from agencies)

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