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15 Dec 2016

Rahul raises stakes - 'Personal' graft charge at PM, chance to speak in House sought

Rahul Gandhi with Trinamul leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay (seated left) at the media conference as others try to bring order when reporters asked the Congress leader a flurry of questions on his claim. Picture by Prem Singh
Sanjay K. Jha, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 14: Rahul Gandhi today said he possessed information "about personal corruption of the Prime Minister", prompting an armada of ministers to accuse him of lying and demand an apology.
Yeh Pradhan Mantri ke personal bhrastachar ka information hai (This is about personal corruption of the Prime Minister). We have detailed information," the Congress leader told a media conference that was attended by several Opposition leaders, including from the Trinamul Congress.
A few days ago, Rahul had threatened to cause "an earthquake" if he was allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha.
Today, Rahul refused to elaborate and respond to questions on whether he would make the disclosure outside if not allowed to speak at all in Parliament as the session is coming to an end in two days.
Some Opposition leaders who accompanied him said he had not shared the information with them but claimed that the evidence was explosive without explaining how they were so certain.
Rahul had begun the media conference on a sedate note. "We told the Speaker to start the debate under any rule. We said the Prime Minister should stop making excuses and come to the House to listen to us.... For the first time, the government is not allowing Parliament to function."
Unlike earlier days, some ministers and BJP members were also seen shouting in the Lok Sabha, which hardly conducted any business today.
Rahul added: "The Prime Minister owes an explanation; he has destroyed millions of lives (through demonetisation). His decision is against the poor people. He is personally responsible. He speaks in pop concerts and public meetings but not in Parliament. What is he scared of? He doesn't want me to open my mouth. Let him listen to the Opposition parties and then he can reply in detail. Let the country decide who is speaking the truth."
Questions rained on Rahul about the "explosive information" he was referring to and why he cannot speak outside Parliament.
Appearing to be a little irritated, Rahul made the direct reference to the Prime Minister's alleged personal corruption. This is the first time any Opposition leader has cast aspersions on Modi's personal integrity since he became the Prime Minister.
Asked why Rahul was insisting on speaking in Parliament alone, Congress leaders have said the House has its own sanctity and provides legal immunity to a member.
Allegations made outside attract defamation and other legal consequences, one leader said.
Senior ministers dismissed Rahul's allegation as "false and baseless", insisting there could not be a bigger "lie" than his claim.
Ministers such as Manohar Parrikar, Ananth Kumar, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Prakash Javadekar went ballistic, calling the charge a result of his "desperation and frustration" and demanding an apology.
"Rahul Gandhi tells lies. Come to Parliament, discuss and also listen to our reply. He is the same person who kept quiet during the 10 years when the country, under the Manmohan Singh government, was being looted," law minister Prasad said.

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