The Congress, which has been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Probe (JPC) probe on the Rafale fighter jet deal since the beginning of the Winter Session of Parliament, on Monday said that it was ready for a debate on Wednesday over the controversial deal.
"Jaitley ji has thrown a challenge ... we accept it... we are ready for a debate on January 2. Please decide a time," Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said in the Lok Sabha just as it was about to adjourn for the day.
He was responding to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said that the Congress should begin the discussion on the issue immediately.
The minister had alleged that the Congress was "running away" from a discussion and was spreading "lies" over the deal.
"If you have the courage, begin the debate immediately," Jaitley said soon after the House voted the Supplementary Demands for Grants amid din and slogan shouting by the Congress demanding a JPC probe on the Rafale deal.
During the debate, BJP's Nishikant Dubey too accused the Congress of making a hue and cry over the issue and charged that the Congress was running away from a discussion.
As Speaker Sumitra Mahajan was about to adjourn the House for the day, Kharge reminded her about Jaitley's challenge and asked her to fix the time for a discussion on January 2.
"I am not saying no...why should I say no...In fact the House was prepared for a debate but something happened and you (Congress) started demanding JPC probe...you keep your challenges to yourself... don't challenge me. When the debate will take place, I will decide...you will decide," Mahajan remarked and then adjourned the House for the day.
The government has been saying that it was ready for a discussion on the issue.
Earlier in the day, Home Minister Rajnath Singh rejected allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal while asserting that a lie repeated again and again will not become a truth.
"The Congress should understand that a lie spoken many a time cannot turn into truth. We have been ready for a discussion from the very first day. But why is the opposition party running away (from a discussion)," Singh said.
He was responding to Kharge's accusations on the issue during Zero Hour amid protests and slogan-shouting by opposition members including those of Congress, AIADMK and the TDP on different issues.
Raising the issue, Kharge reiterated his party's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal alleging that it was one of the biggest "scams" of the country.
"We are demanding a JPC probe for three weeks. Allow it," he said, questioning the government for not disclosing the price of the aircraft.
He claimed that the Rafale fighter jets have been purchased at a price three times higher than the UPA government's deal.
"Why the government is not disclosing the prices even as the French President has said it can be disclosed," he said.
Not satisfied with the government's response, the Congress members continued with their protest.