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Didn’t approve Parliament response, says Lekhi; MEA flags ‘procedural error’

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NEW DELHI, Dec 9: A political row broke out after Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi said she had not approved a question tabled in the Lok Sabha on Friday on declaring Hamas a terrorist organisation, prompting the government to issue a clarification that it was a “procedural error”.

As opposition parties latched onto Lekhi’s remarks and described the incident as a “serious breach and violation of rules”, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a statement, saying the unstarred question “needs a technical correction in terms of reflecting Shri V Muraleedharan as the Minister of State replying to the Parliament Question”.

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“This is being suitably undertaken,” the ministry added.

“You have been misinformed as I have not signed any paper with this question and this answer,” Lekhi said in response to a post on X on the issue.

The unstarred question number 980, titled “Declaration of Hamas as Terrorist Organisation”, was put by Congress MP Kumbakudi Sudhakaran.

“I have reported this breach to the PMO and (External Affairs Minister) S Jaishankar and made a phone call to the foreign secretary, and told them to investigate. Action should be taken against those who have done this,” Lekhi told a press conference.

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“We have noted that Lok Sabha unstarred question number 980 answered on December 8 needs a technical correction in terms of reflecting V Muraleedharan as the Minister of State replying to the question. This is being suitably undertaken,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

Congress and Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) leaders took a dig at Lekhi as the minister’s public statement came close on the heels of the Lok Sabha expelling Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra on charges of sharing her log-in ID and password with persons associated with a Dubai-based businessman.

“Who logged in for you?” Congress leader Amitabh Dubey asked Lekhi in response to the BJP leader’s post on X.

“Is she (Lekhi) then claiming it is a forged response, if yes this is a serious breach and violation of the rules that prevail. Would be grateful for a clarification from @MEAIndia,” Priyanka Chaturvedi, Rajya Sabha MP of the Shiv Sena (UBT), said on X.

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“Asking questions that were submitted through someone else led to expulsion of an MP yesterday, today a minister denies that reply to a PQ (Parliament Question) was approved by her, shouldn’t that be investigated too? Shouldn’t it lead to seeking accountability, however innocuous the response from the Ministry of External Affairs?” she asked on X.

After the government’s clarification, Chaturvedi said, “This could have been handled internally regarding the MoS who should have signed off but this public outrage leads to further confusion on the authenticity of the response to the Parliament question. Clearly all is not well amongst the team of MoS.”

Sudhakaran, who represents Kannur in the Lower House of Parliament, had asked whether the government has any proposal to declare Hamas a terrorist organisation in India; if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefore.

When pointed out that the Lok Sabha and MEA websites had the answer to the question mentioned in her name, Lekhi said an “inquiry will reveal the culprit”.  (PTI)


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