Congress Leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge. (PTI/File)
The Congress on Monday said in Lok Sabha that it is ready for a debate on the Rafale jet deal on Wednesday. "Jaitley ji has thrown a challenge ... we are ready for a debate on January 2. Please decide a time," Congress Leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said. He made these remarks soon after the House gave its nod to additional gross expenditure of Rs 85,948.86 crore during the current fiscal ending March 2019.
At 2 PM, when the House was to take up discussion on Supplementary Demands for Grants, Kharge repeated his demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the Rafale deal.
At this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Kharge should begin the discussion on the issue immediately and asserted that the government was ready to give a reply.
Kharge, he said, was "running away" from the discussion. Stressing that there should a discussion on Rafale deal, Jaitley said he would prove that the Congress party was spreading lies over the deal.
When the House was about to be adjourned for the day, Kharge reminded Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of the debate and sought a time for it.
Mahajan said she will decide on the timing but Kharge can't extract a decision on the date and time immediately.
"You keep your challenges to yourself. Don't challenge me," an apparently peeved Mahajasn said.
Earlier in the day, Congress had again sought to raise the issue of alleged scam in the Rafale deal in Lok Sabha, inviting a sharp reaction from the government stating the Opposition should not "run away" from a debate on the issue. Congress members have been raising the matter since the start of the Winter Session of Parliament on December 11, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.
During the Zero Hour, party members trooped into the Well displaying placards and shouting slogans on the issue.
Raising the matter, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge alleged there has been a scam in the deal and asked why the government was not disclosing the price of jets.
He also demanded a JPC probe into the Rafale deal amid loud protests from BJP members.
In response, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said repeating the same lie again and again would not make it a truth. The government is ready for discussion on the matter but why is the Congress "running away", the minister asked.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was present in the House. The Opposition has also been raising the issue outside Parliament.