By Payal MehtaNew Delhi [India], March 19 (ANI): Sparks flew at a Parliamentary Consultative Committee meeting chaired by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on India's G20 presidency in the national capital on Saturday.
At the meeting, Jaishankar gave a detailed presentation on the G20 presidency to the committee members.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was among the Opposition members present at the meeting. According to sources, a ruling party MP raised the issue of political leaders trying to score brownie points by talking about Indian democracy on foreign land.
Further, according to sources, when the reference was made, Rahul Gandhi, who is a member of the Lok Sabha from Wayanad in Kerala, interjected saying it was an indirect reference to him as there had been a ruckus in Parliament about the comments he made during his recent London visit.
The sources said that Gandhi stated further at the meeting that his criticism was against an individual, who was named in a report and not against the government and that an individual industrialist was not the government as was perceived.
The Congress MP further said that he did not speak in a manner that the BJP claimed he did, as it called him an "anti-national".
Sources said that on this remark by the Congress MP, a BJP MP countered saying that this was not the appropriate platform to speak about this. A few other MPs present at the meeting also supported the argument put forward by the BJP MP while many opposition MPs supported Rahul's right to clarify or defend himself in view of the oblique reference to his remarks made during his London visit.
Further, according to reliable sources, the External Affairs Ministers present in the meeting asked the Congress MP to not speak on the issue on this platform.
"A good meeting of the ConsultativeCommittee on ExternalAffairs today on India's foreign policy objectives in the G-20 was somewhat marred by some members needlessly politicising the discussion. @RahulGandhi robustly responded to themit ended with an amicable group photograph," congress MP, Dr Shashi Tharoor tweeted after the meeting.
"There is no doubt that Mr Gandhi used this platform because he came under tremendous pressure in the wake of the backlash seen in Parliament and among the public over his remarks in London," a BJP MP present at the meeting told ANI.
Sources further told ANI that EAM Jaishankar took offence to Rahul over his statement that Indian democracy was in danger. However, the Congress MP said he stands by what he said about the state of Indian democracy in the present day.
After a point, the government representatives asked Rahul to cut down his response and stick to the subject despite being allowed to make his point very briefly.
"When Mr Gandhi wanted to comment, he was allowed by the External Affairs Minister to briefly make his remark. But the moment Mr Gandhi started making it into a long speech and give it political overtones, Mr Jaishankar asked him to cut his speech short," another source told ANI.
Saturday's meeting was attended by EAM S Jaishankar, MoS MEA V Muraleedharan, Congress MPs Rahul Gandhi and Dr Shashi Tharoor, TMC was represented by Shatrughan Sinha, BJD by Sujeet Kumar, UBT MP Priyanka Chaturvedi and RJD MP Prem Chandra was also present. BJP MPs GVL Narasimha Rao, Dt Rajdeep Roy, Mahesh Jethmalani and Anil Firojia were among those who attended the meeting. Senior MEA officials were also present at the meeting.
The recent remarks made by Rahul Gandhi in London drew sharp criticism from the BJP government at the Centre, with several ministers and senior leaders of the ruling party gunning for him. Leading the charge against him BJP president JP Nadda, Ministers Anurag Thakur, Smriti Irani and Kiren Rijiju, held press conferences demanding an apology from Rahul over his remarks, which they said would be tantamount to maligning the country's image overseas.
Last week, both Houses of the Parliament saw a washout, with the opposition reiterating their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the report by US short-seller Hindenburg Research against the Adani Group and the treasury benches raising the pitch, demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi over his London remarks.
Late last week, Rahul met Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, requesting time to clarify his position on the floor of the Lower House. (ANI)