NEW DELHI: The political slugfest over alleged financial irregularities in the DDCA reverberated in both Houses of Parliament, with the Congress demanding Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s resignation. As Jaitley defended his role as former chief of the cricket body denying any wrongdoing, his party MP Kirti Azad, not impressed with his reply, demanded a time-bound SIT probe into the matter.
At one point of time, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was seen prompting Azad to speak on the issue. Separately, Azad, in a series of tweets, dared Jaitley to sue him too for the allegations.
Sonia later led the Congress’ walkout from the Lower House, expressing their disapproval over Jaitley’s explanation. Rajya Sabha too was adjourned repeatedly over the issue.
High drama marked the issue in Lok Sabha. As the House met, Congress and Left MPs moved adjournment motions demanding a discussion on the matter. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia to speak.
Mahajan said: “Today I will not stop you from speaking. Speak as much as you want.” But following protests from the treasury benches, she proceeded with the Question Hour.
Following this, Congress MPs trooped into the Well of the House and started shouting slogans demanding the Finance Minister’s resignation. Mahajan then adjourned the House for 20 minutes.
Party leader K C Venugopal was allowed to raise the matter during Zero Hour where he alleged that construction work at Feroz Shah Kotla had cost Rs 114 crore compared to the estimated Rs 24 crore, and alleged that it was “forced escalation” and “there was no record of tenders. He (Jaitley) is also involved in the scam. We demand a JPC probe and resignation of Jaitley”.
Replying to the Congress allegation, Jaitley said, “The charges (against me) are baseless and wrong. This is all I have to say.” He explained how he had raised funds for the complete renovation of the stadium.
The FM gave a detailed account of the expenditure incurred on the construction work. He said it cost Rs 114 crore to build the Kotla stadium, which was merely a “field” prior to the construction. Jaitley attacked Congress, saying the Nehru stadium was renovated at a cost of Rs 900 crore and the Dhyanchand stadium at Rs 600 crore. “No SFIO probe gave report that the wrong expenditure was made. It accepted the expenditure,” Jaitley said.
As Congress members began protesting in the middle of his reply, an agitated Jaitley asked them to sit down. “you should have courage to listen. Why do you find my reply so inconvenient? It is not a charge against you,” he said gesturing them to sit.
Coming to Jaitley’s defence, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that the Finance Minister was known for his “impeccable character, honesty and maintaining high standards in public life”. The Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) report did not find any fault with the expenditure and “accepted” the cost incurred, he said, giving a detailed account of the construction work at Ferozshah Kotla Ground, which is under scanner. Kirti Azad, who spoke after Jaitley even when many BJP leaders were seen asking him to sit down, said if everything was alright about DDCA works, then the CBI would not have given a notice to it on October 23. Azad even dared Jaitley to file a defamation case against him. Earlier during the day in a series of tweets, Azad said, “Dear Arun Jaitley, are you filing defamation case against me? Please do it. Don’t take injunction, don’t gag freedom of speech... Why did you not include my name?” In reference to Jaitley’s reported comments that a BJP MP had met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi where it was decided to “fix” him, Kirti Azad said he had been fighting against him for over nine years.
As Kirti Azad supported the Congress in their attack on Jaitley, embarrased ministers refused to comment on the issue. Some partymen later hinted at disciplinary action against Azad, but another view within the party was to let the issue die its natural death than take immediate action against Azad. Rajya Sabha was disrupted repeatedly after leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the issue of alleged financial irregularities by Jaitley in DDCA.
Jaitley got up to confront the Opposition. “Some people made the allegations outside. I have taken a legal recourse. Please waive off all rules and ask the LOP to start a discussion and point out any specific thing against me…I will answer it right now. ... Ask him to start it right now,” he said. With the Congress not relenting, Rajya Sabha was adjourned four times before lunch.