Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has not attended a single sitting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence in the current Lok Sabha. Members of such committees are appointed for the duration of a year and are tasked with the responsibility of reviewing bills pertaining to the department concerned apart from reviewing its annual reports and other related matters.
Since the constitution of the Committee in September, following the reelection of the NDA into power, Rahul Gandhi has not attended a single sitting of the Committee. The Committee has had 11 sittings thus far. The last one was on the 12th of March, 2020.
It is pertinent to mention here that for someone who went to such lengths to cast aspersions on the Rafale Deal and invented controversy where none existed, he would be more interested in issues related to defence. However, that does not appear to be the case here and all his overbearing interest in defence appears to have vanished entirely the moment election results were declared. Rahul Gandhi had fought the entire Lok Sabha election last year, and the assembly elections the previous year, only on one agenda, inventing scam in the Rafale deal, but he seems to be uninterested in discussing matters in the defence department under which the deal comes under.
The amount of interest Rahul Gandhi has displayed in attending the sittings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence appears proportional to his interest in the Rafale Deal since election results were declared. The scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has hardly ever mentioned the Rafale Deal after his party suffered a crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections.
The absence of Rahul Gandhi in the sittings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee of Defence combined with his sudden lack of interest in the Rafale Deal only further confirms that he himself never believed there was any wrongdoing in the deal. The entire charade was mere petty politics ahead of elections even risking Indian national security and interests.
During its sittings, the Committee discussed matters related to procurement policy, defence research and development, defence public sector undertakings, demands for grants, welfare for ex-servicemen and other important matters. It is expected of elected leaders of our Parliament to pay close attention to these matters.
These are important jobs that they are elected to perform. It is why citizens do not mind too much when Parliamentarians are accorded privileges that are not available to the general public. However, it is quite clear that certain parliamentarians perceive themselves to be too privileged to perform their most fundamental duties.
It is indeed a matter of grave concern that the second in the chain-of-command of the primary opposition party does not even bother to attend such sittings. The absence of Rahul Gandhi assumes particular significance when defence deals are one of the issues that his party made the cornerstone of its election campaign on his instructions.
As it turns, absence in the sittings of the Parliamentary Standing Committee he is appointed to has become a longstanding habit of Rahul Gandhi. During the first term of the Modi Government, he was appointed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs in each of the five years. Out of the combined 86 sittings of that Committee, Rahul Gandhi attended only 9.
In 2014-15 and 2018-19, Rahul Gandhi did not attend a single sitting of the Committee. 30 sittings of the Committee occurred in these two years. He attended 5 out of 23 sittings in 2017-18, 3 out of 17 in 2016-17 and only one out of 16 in 2015-16. Thus, it only demonstrates that such callousness with regards to his duties has become the hallmark of his performance as a Parliamentarian.
Recently Rahul Gandhi has taken great interest in the India-China standoff. He has been regularly attacking the Modi government accusing that India has surrendered areas to China during the recent clash at LAC in the border. He has been questioning the stand of the Indian defence forces, and he has been criticised for that not only by BJP leaders, but even by his own party leaders like Milind Deora and alliance leader like Sharad Pawar. But while Rahul Gandhi has been overactive on commenting on the India-China clash, he had neglected the standing committee meetings of the External Affairs ministry when he was a member of the same.