New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi has given a notice under Rule 357 to speak on the Rafale fighter jet deal issue in Parliament on Friday. The development comes in the wake of the Congress party reiterating its demand for details of the inter-governmental agreement with France inked in September 2016 under which India is procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets in ready-to-use condition.
Congress has claimed that there were irregularities in the nearly Rs 58,000 crore deal, alleging the Narendra Modi government was procuring jets at a price higher than the one negotiated by the UPA government as part of the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal. The UPA was negotiating a deal with France to procure 126 Rafale fighter jets, along with a transfer of technology, but the same could not be finalised.
Continuing with his party’s demand for answers on the deal, Rahul yesterday wrote on Twitter: “Why did the Raksha Mantri change her stance from: I will reveal the price of the RAFALE planes in Nov 2017 to the price is a state secret in Feb 2018. A) Corruption B) To protect Modiji C) To protect Modiji’s friend D) All of above.”
Rahul Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not answering his questions because there was something “fishy” about it.
Referring to Modi’s speeches in Parliament yesterday, he told reporters that it was clear that the prime minister was not interested in answering “fundamental questions”.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said, had first announced that she would inform the nation about the cost of purchasing Rafale aircraft but was now saying she could not do so as it was a state secret. “Which of her two statements is correct,” he asked.
Rahul said he had also posed three questions to Modi. These included the aircraft’s cost and “handing over” the deal to a businessman after “snatching” it from a public undertaking. However, there was no reply, Gandhi said.
Also yesterday, the Congress party accused PM Modi of indulging in “political corruption” in the Rafale aircraft deal, saying he was guilty of violating the defence acquisition procedures.
“I charge the PM with political corruption. This is political corruption, it is not promoting crony capitalism. This is political corruption. What we will call it?” Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
On the government’s assertion that it cannot reveal the details of the deal because it was “secret”, Sharma said: “We reject that premise itself, go by facts and record.”
Defending the government’s stance, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley yesterday hit back at the Congress over the Rafale deal, accusing it of “seriously compromising” country’s security by seeking details of armaments purchased along with the aircraft.
“Your party was stigmatised when you were in government because of allegation of corruption. Now the new act is, let us manufacture an allegation of corruption against the NDA. So when you couldn’t find anything, you said please disclose the price of the Rafale deal,” Jaitley said while replying to the debate on the Budget.
“I charge the Congress of seriously compromising India’s security…Mr Modi has run a clean government for last 4 years, so let us manufacturer a crisis, let us manufacture an issue.
“And the manufactured issue is, please tell me the details of the Rafale deal,” the finance minister said in the Lok Sabha referring to the demands by the Congress to make public details of the government-to-government deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.