A breach of privilege motion has been moved against Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his tweet related to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s reply in the Lok Sabha. The privilege motion moved by a BJP MP in the Rajya Sabha has now been forwarded by Lower House Chairman Venkaiah Naidu to the Lok Sabha for the necessary action. Rahul Gandhi had tweeted, “Dear Mr Jaitlie - thank you for reminding India that our PM never means what he says or says what he means.” It has been alleged that Rahul Gandhi had deliberately twisted Jaitley’s name to malign him.
The fate of the motion will be decided during the budget session of the Parliament, commencing later this month.
Moving a breach of privilege against an elected representative or others is not rare. What is rare is the House awarding stringent punishment to the person accused of the breach of privilege. In the past, many members of Parliament have been disqualified on the grounds of wrong conduct. A group of MPs, belonging to the ruling and also opposition parties, were disqualified some years ago for receiving cash for raising questions in the House. Liquor baron Vijay Mallya too was disqualified recently on account of his financial irregularities.
Incidentally, a motion for breach of privilege was also moved against Rahul Gandhi’s grandmother Indira Gandhi four decades ago. After the Congress Party’s rout in nine northern states in the country in 1977 elections, Indira Gandhi was elected to the Lok Sabha in a bypoll from Chikamagalur in Karnataka in 1978. A motion for breach of privilege was moved by Socialist leader Madhu Limaye against Indira Gandhi for abuse of power was passed and she was disqualified as an MP. Indira along with her son Sanjay was then sent to Tihar jail. They were released after a week. Indira’s disqualification as an MP was however later rescinded by the Parliament.
But her jail term and disqualification as an MP helped Indira Gandhi immensely. The Janata Party government led by Morarji Desai had already lost its popularity. Commenting on this, Madhu Limaye has written, “The guilt of putting us in prison for 19 months without trial (during Emergency) was washed by her one week in Tihar Jail!”
The rest is history. Indira’s popularity and the Janata Party’s unpopularity kept on increasing subsequently and Indira returned to power in 1980.
It remains to be seen if the Lok Sabha takes a hard stand against Rahul Gandhi in this breach of privilege motion issue. The general elections are now almost around the corner and any issue can gain significance in the poll campaign. The question is will Rahul, like his grandmother Indira Gandhi, turns this issue to his political advantage?