Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and other members of his party walked out of a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on defence Wednesday, alleging that neither he nor his colleagues were allowed to speak during a discussion on new uniforms for the armed forces.
Mr Gandhi had said the panel’s time was being wasted in talking about uniforms instead of discussing how to better equip India’s soldiers, particularly in the face of threats at the country’s borders. He was referring to the months-long stand-off with China at the Ladakh border, among other issues.
The confrontation took place as former Lt General Devender Paul Vats, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Haryana, raised the issue of changes in uniform, calling for uniformity and parity in the rank and names of all wings – Army, Navy and Air Force – so there is no confusion.
Mr Gandhi wanted to know why politicians had to decide on military uniforms and ranks . The Congress leader suggested this was a matter best left to the armed forces themselves.
This happened as the armed forces, led by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, were making a presentation on how military service branches in the United States and other countries had uniforms that made it easy to distinguish between various ranks.
As Mr Gandhi and other Congress members pressed for an explanation, the BJP’s Jual Oram, the Chairman of the committee allegedly did not permit them to speak.
Mr Gandhi kept asking why General Rawat and other senior officers had to listen to politicians on this subject, and if the armed forces weren’t they competent to decide the issue on their own.
Exasperated, the Congress contingent finally walked out. The BJP MPs were taken by surprise and, later (after the walkout), one of them also questioned Mr Gandhi’s intentions.
The meeting came to an abrupt end soon after, with an embarrassed General Rawat leaving and no decision taken on the issue of new uniforms and ranks of the armed forces.