New Delhi: Calling for a one-on-one debate with the Prime Minister on Rafale case, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday dismissed governments defence of the deal and demanded Modi to answer who inflated the price of the jets.
After targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal in Lok Sabha, Gandhi later at a media conference questioned him over an audio clip purportedly featuring Goa Minister Vishwajit Rane claiming that Goa Chief Minister and former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had all the files on the Rafale deal.
“I would like to debate with the Prime Minister one-on-one on Rafale, on anything on combat aircraft. Just give me 20 minutes,” said Gandhi demanding Modi to answer “credibly” questions raised by him about the deal to procure 36 fighter jets from France.
“The cost per aircraft was inflated from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore. Was it Modi’s decision or the Indian Air Force’s? If the decision was not of IAF, then did they not object to the inflated price — yes or no?
“Why was a private entity which never made an aircraft chosen and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited bypassed, and who took the decision not to manufacture the Rafale jets in India?” asked Gandhi.
Referring to former French President Francois Hollande’s remarks that the private entity was a condition precedent for the Rafale deal, Gandhi also asked Modi if Hollande was “lying” or “telling the truth”.
He also accused Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of “lying.” Dismissing his defence of the deal in Lok Sabha, he questioned: “Why was the decision maker of the deal, Modi himself, not giving the answers?”
“The decision is on Rafale and the decision maker who announced the deal with pomp is not answering and Jaitley is trying to defend Modi and his actions.
“Modi can run away from debate, but the truth cannot be hidden. The entire country knows that Modi changed the deal to help his industrialist crony pocket Rs 30,000 crore,” alleged Gandhi.
Jaitley questions us about the figure Rs 1,600 crore, but he himself told Parliament that the size of the Rafale deal is Rs 58,000 crore, or Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft,” said Gandhi said, playing a video clip of Jaitley’s earlier address in Parliament.
Punching holes in Jaitley’s assertions that the cost of the jets was enhanced due to new weapons, Gandhi said the Modi government’s defence of the deal was inconsistent.
“The 2007 request for proposal (RFP) documents clearly states that direct flyaway aircraft be delivered with full compliments of weapons and the weapons package was integral to the flyaway aircraft,” said Gandhi reading out the RFP and also enumerated some of the weapon and equipment annexed with it.
“Jaitley has a habit of telling lies one after the other, but the reality is Rafale deal was made to steal from the exchequer,” said Gandhi adding “chowkidar chor hai” (watchman is a thief).
About the audio clip featuring Rane, Gandhi alleged Parrikar was “blackmailing and threatening” because of the files that he possessed.
“The question is: what is the information on those files with Parrikar, what is the impact on Modi?” asked Gandhi referring to the audio clip which Rane claimed to be “doctored”.
On the other hand, Parrikar has called the clip Congress’ “desperate attempt to fabricate facts”.
“The audio clip released by Congress is a desperate attempt to fabricate facts after their lies were exposed by the recent Supreme Court verdict on Rafale. No such discussion ever came up during Cabinet or any other meeting,” tweeted Parrikar.
Gandhi, however, insisted the Supreme Court verdict was not a clean chit to Modi and reiterated the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal.
“The Supreme Court did not say there was no corruption in the deal nor did it say that there can be no investigation into the deal. There are issues with the court verdict and that is why we demanding a JPC, which will bring out all the truth.