Kharge, Sushma Swaraj in war of words

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on July 23, 2014

Question of darshan External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Parliament House in New Delhi on Wednesday. BJP leaders Venkaiah Naidu and LK Advani look on. PTI

Statement on Modi’s BRICS summit triggers caustic exchange in the Lok Sabha

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha on the recently-concluded BRICS summit, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had a heated exchange with Opposition leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who retorted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “is not God”.

The exchange rose from whether or not the PM himself should make a statement in the House on the summit.

Swaraj tackled the aggressive Opposition leader before she gave an account of the summit and the PM’s interaction with the heads of BRICS states. She rose to speak when the Opposition MPs were walking out of the House to protest against a news report on a Shiv Sena MP allegedly force-feeding a fasting Muslim caterer during Ramadan.

“Khargejee, you have made your point. You have walked out and everyone has seen you. Now come back, I am about to make a statement on BRICS,” she said.

Just as she had started, the Congress MPs trooped back into the House with Kharge jeering at the Minister.

“I have no doubt that the Minister is very competent but we wanted the PM to make a statement. After all, he didn’t even take you along on this trip,” said Kharge.

Past summits

Swaraj was not about let such a slight slip past. “Kharge has made some statements about the PM’s absence and he now informs the House that I was not taken on this trip by the PM.

“Let me clarify that there have been six BRICS summits including the latest one.

“In the last five summits, only the Prime Minister represented India. He never took the Foreign Minister along, not even when the summit was being held in Delhi. And on none of the occasions — in 2013, 2012, 2011 et al — did the PM make a statement in the House,” she said.

“Even if the Foreign Ministers in the earlier regime never attended any BRICS summit, I would have gone with the PM had Parliament not been in session,” she added. “Khargejee tells us he has been missing the PM’s presence and wants to hear him speak.

“Was he not present in the House when the PM spoke so beautifully during the debate on the Presidential address?

“And today, during the Question Hour, the PM was sitting in the House. Darshan ho gaye na (You have been blessed with his presence, haven’t you)?”

Kharge was none too pleased with the proceedings which he loudly interrupted.

“What do you mean by darshan ho gaye? Kya Bhagwan hain voh (is he God)?” he shouted as his partymen thumped their desks.

Mulayam’s say

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was simultaneously heard telling Swaraj: “So what if they (the UPA) did not inform the House about what went on in BRICS. You can do it. What is stopping you?”

“That is precisely what I am doing. They did not inform the House. But we will. We are setting a new tradition,” said Swaraj.

The Foreign Minister then went on to give a detailed statement on the PM’s interactions with the heads of BRICS states. “The prevailing political turmoil, economic weakness and general uncertainty in the world impose greater responsibility on BRICS to strengthen collective international efforts to address these challenges,” she said.

Higher ambitions

“The BRICS countries have the ability to take major decisions quickly, which encourages us to set higher ambitions in the future,” the External Affairs Minister said.

She was referring to the agreements on the establishment of a new development bank and the Contingent Reserve Arrangement reached at the July 14-15 summit.

The bank not only offers additional long-term source of development finance for members, it has also generated hope and excitement in the developing world, she said..

The Contingency Reserve Arrangement will provide additional means of cushion against any sudden external pressures on the rupee.

This is particularly helpful at a time of persisting risk of volatility in international financial markets, the Minister said.

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Published on July 23, 2014
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