New Delhi: The confrontation between the Congress and the BJP escalated further on Friday with Congress president Sonia Gandhi accusing External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj of indulging in “theatrics” and Rahul Gandhi demanding to know how much money she got from former IPL chief Lalit Modi.
Sonia Gandhi, who continued to lead the noisy protests by Congress leaders against the suspension of 25 party MPs, made a stinging attack on Sushma Swaraj’s Thursday comment claiming she had not helped Lalit Modi but his ailing wife.
“Sushma Swaraj theatrics me mahir hain (Sushma Swaraj is an expert in theatrics),” Sonia Gandhi told the media.
In her speech, Sushma Swaraj had asked: “What would have Sonia Gandhi done had she been in my place?”
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi answered the question, saying his mother would not have done anything like Sushma Swaraj.
Rahul Gandhi also said: “After committing a theft, thieves go into hiding. What Sushma ji did she did secretively. Not one person in the (external affairs) ministry knew she was going to do this.
“Whenever there is robbery or theft, a financial transfer takes place. Sushmaji’s family, her husband and daughter have received money from Lalit Modi. She should tell the country exactly how much money Lalit Modi has paid to her family,” he said.
Friday was the fourth successive day of Congress protest against the suspension of 25 of its members from the Lok Sabha by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Monday.
Congress members raised slogans at the protest asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence on the Lalit Modi and Vyapam scam issues.
Lalit Modi is facing investigation in several cases by the Enforcement Directorate.
The BJP leaders and union ministers hit back at Sonia Gandhi after her denunciation of Sushma Swaraj.
Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: “Those who cannot come to parliament, cannot speak in parliament, will do this outside parliament…For someone who can speak and debate in parliament… this is the difference between Sushma ji and Sonia Gandhi.”
Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani added: “Sushma ji’s speech is a challenge for the opposition to get proof against her. It’s easy for Sonia ji to give a byte, but it is not easy for her to give a speech without reading it out from a paper.”
While the Lok Sabha took up business after a walkout by Samajwadi Party and Left members who sought revocation of suspension of Congress members, the Rajya Sabha failed to transact business for the third consecutive week since the monsoon session began.
The upper house was adjourned for the day after heated arguments between Congress and treasury benches over the stalemate in the house over the Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues.
The Congress, supported by some opposition parties, has been demanding the resignation of Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje on their alleged help to Lalit Modi and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam.
As private members’ bills were introduced into the post-lunch session, Congress leader Anand Sharma stood up and said there can be no discussion.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government wants to take “the country on the path of development while the Congress is trying to take it towards destruction”.
Earlier, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told the Lok Sabha that the government was ready to move a motion to revoke the suspension of Congress MPs if they met the Lok Sabha speaker and promised her to help run the house. The members were suspended for five days.