Embarrassment for Antony in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi: Defence Minister A K Antony today faced an embarrassing situation in the Rajya Sabha when he laid a corrected version of a statement made in the House last week on the purchase of MiG fighter aircraft, triggering protests from BJP. Antony, while replying to a question on May 2, had stated that 872 MiG fighters of "various types were purchased between 1966 and 1980".

In his revised statement, he said, "It was inadvertently mentioned in the reply that a total of 872 MiG aircraft of various types were purchased between 1966 and 1980." This information, he said, "related only to the MiG-21 aircraft" and the "total number of MiG aircraft of different variants including the MiG-21 variant inducted into the Indian Air Force is 1,303."

These were purchased between 1966 and 2004-05, Antony said, adding "The error is regretted." However, as soon as P J Kurien, who was in the Chair announced during Zero Hour that Antony would make a statement correcting his earlier answer, senior BJP member M Venkaiah Naidu objected to it.

Taking a dig at Antony, he said, "Is it a tamasha (drama) …Ministers are correcting their statements daily." Naidu`s party colleague Najma Heptulla joined him, saying "Everyday some Minister is correcting his statement." They were soon joined by others including Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Prakash Javadekar, Vinay Katiyar and Ravi Shankar Prasad who stood up raising their objections.

An agitated Kurien said, "They are doing their duty by correcting it…You cannot ask the Chair what is the rule…A Minister with prior permission of the Chair can make a statement correcting an answer." Heptulla sought a directive from the Chair to such Ministers that they they should furnish correct statements.