New Delhi: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has not attended a single meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence since its formation as part of the 17th Lok Sabha last year.
The committee has met 11 times since September 2019, with the last meeting having been convened on 12 March. According to the Lok Sabha website, Gandhi, who is a member of the committee, hasn’t attended any of these meetings.
The committee is a departmentally related standing committee (DRSC) of select members of Parliament. It is one of the 24 DSRCs, including on agriculture, commerce, human resource and development, among others.
The defence parliamentary committee has a total of 31 members — 21 from the Lok Sabha, nominated by its speaker, and 10 from the Rajya Sabha, nominated by its chairman. It is responsible for examining bills pertaining to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), along with other defence-related issues of importance in Parliament. The term of office for the members of the committee does not exceed one year.
BJP MP Jual Oram, who is the chairman of the committee, refused to comment on Gandhi’s absence.
However, some other BJP leaders ThePrint spoke to attacked Gandhi, saying the leader who skipped these meetings is now criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the India-China border standoff.
The Congress, meanwhile, defended Gandhi, saying his absence from these meetings has no bearing on the LAC situation.
‘Rahul merely trying to score brownie points’
The committee’s functions include considering the demands for grants of the MoD, examining bills pertaining to the MoD, examining the annual report of MoD, considering national basic long-term policy documents presented to both Houses, and make reports on all their examinations.
Seen as ‘mini parliaments’, the parliamentary standing committees are said to have immense importance. They vet bills and analyse policy changes. The recommendations made by these committees is in no way binding, but their reports do hold weight.
The BJP leaders ThePrint spoke to said Gandhi’s absence from the parliamentary committee meetings shows his “lack of seriousness” on matters of governance.
“He is speaking so vociferously on the India-China issue, constantly attacking the government. But the parliamentary committee is where he could have made real contributions, but chose not to. This just shows his level of seriousness on issues of governance,” BJP leader Bizay Sonkar Shastri told ThePrint.
Shastri also said the Congress leader’s attack on the border situation with China is “merely to score brownie points”.
Gandhi’s constant criticism of the central government over the India-China border standoff included a pun on the PM’s name, calling the latter “Surender Modi” for ‘surrendering’ territory to China.
More recently, the Congress leader also said that “Ladakhis…are screaming a warning” and ignoring it “will cost India dearly”.
Patriotic Ladakhis are raising their voice against Chinese intrusion. They are screaming a warning.
Ignoring their warning will cost India dearly.
For India’s sake, please listen to them. pic.twitter.com/kjxQ9QNpd2
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) July 4, 2020
Last month, Gandhi had tweeted saying: “China killed our soldiers. China took our land. Then, why is China praising Mr Modi during this conflict?”
China killed our soldiers.
China took our land.
Then, why is China praising Mr Modi during this conflict? pic.twitter.com/iNV8c1cmal
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 22, 2020
The Congress, however, said at a time when the country is facing a border stand-off with China, the focus shouldn’t be on Gandhi’s attendance in the parliamentary committee meetings.
“His absence from the meetings is not the reason why India is facing an LAC stand-off with China. It isn’t the reason why we witnessed the first deaths at the LAC in the last 45 years,” said party spokesperson Jaiveer Shergil.
The Congress also attacked Modi for “being the only PM to take 9 official visits to China” — five times as PM and four times as the chief minister of Gujarat.
“Modi needs to explain how despite his bonding with Xi Jinping, this could happen in the country,” Shergil added.
With inputs from Shanker Arnimesh