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Rahul Gandhi Asks Party's Legal Faces to Not Defend Rafale Deal After Past Embarrassments

Kapil Sibal's decision to defend triple talaq on behalf of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board had put the Congress in a tight spot in the run up to assembly elections in Gujarat last year.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:September 14, 2018, 6:48 PM IST
Rahul Gandhi Asks Party's Legal Faces to Not Defend Rafale Deal After Past Embarrassments
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (Photo: Congress/Twitter)

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has issued a strict memo to party leaders who double up as lawyers to avoid taking cases that could weaken the stand of the Congress on critical issues, sources said.

With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi asked leaders to steer clear of cases that would invite attacks from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Centre or dilute the party’s position.

The Congress president has stressed on the fact that no lawyer from the party should fight for Anil Ambani on the Rafale issue, which has become a bone of contention between the Opposition and the ruling BJP.

Gandhi's stand comes against the backdrop of Ambani's companies sending notices to Congress spokespersons and the businessman telling Gandhi that he's "misinformed, misdirected and misled" about the multi-billion dollar jet fighter deal.

The Congress has sought a joint parliamentary committee on the deal, accusing the government of not disclosing the price of the aircraft and alleging that the price was three times higher than that negotiated during the UPA dispensation with France's Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the aircraft.

In the past, several cases taken up by Congress leaders such as Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi have left the party scrambling for defence.

Sibal’s decision to defend triple talaq on behalf of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) in the Supreme Court on grounds that “it is an age-old tradition and could not be considered unconstitutional” had ruffled the feathers of party bigwigs.

Taking a divergent view, the party's communications in charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said instead that “the Congress has always believed that the issue of instant triple talaq is about gender justice and gender equity. The Congress will support any and every law abolishing instant triple talaq”.

Surjewala insisted that the bill should ensure payment of maintenance and/or subsistence allowance to women and children if the husband is in jail for three years, as envisaged under the proposed law.

The party also faced flak when Sibal and Singhvi defended Vodafone on the retrospective tax case, a decision taken by then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Though the Congress has defended its stand by saying that the leaders are also lawyers and are free to pursue their profession, it has given ammunition to the BJP.

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