New Delhi: As Congress mounted offensive over Narendra Modi's remarks on the AgustaWestland chopper deal case, the government on Tuesday hit back saying the Prime Minister cannot be gagged against speaking on corruption.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
"Prime Minister is entitled to speak on corruption" both inside and outside the House and he cannot be "gagged", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha after a Congress member said he has moved a breach of privilege motion against Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar over PM's remarks at an election rally on the AgustaWestland issue.
The opposition party had staged protest in the Upper House over the issue yesterday, claiming that the PM had "contradicted" Parrikar by stating during an election rally that Italian court has indicted Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the chopper deal, leading to washout of proceedings.
Shantaram Naik (Cong) said he has moved a breach of privilege notice against the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister because of "lies" told outside the House about UPA leaders taking money in the chopper deal.
Jaitley, who is Leader of the House, retorted, "Since when has an election speech by one politician against another outside the House started to be construed as breach of privilege".
Political speech outside by one politician against another is for 'publicity' like the Congress members have been doing in front of media the whole of yesterday, he said.
"The Prime Minister is entitled to speak on corruption" both inside and outside the House and he cannot be "gagged", he said. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said he had called Naik to make a zero hour submission as per the notice he had given and not to raise any other issue like breach of privilege notice.
Congress leader Anand Sharma said the statements made by the Prime Minister in the House or outside are as Prime Minister of the country and there cannot be any distinction between them.
"The Prime Minister has contradicted his Defence Minister," he contended. Jaitley responded by saying that the Prime Minister cannot be gagged against speaking on corruption. After Jaitley's response, Kurien disallowed any further comments on the issue and proceeded with the listed business of the day.