New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday launched a concerted attack on the government over the “top secret” Rafale fighter aircraft deal, alleging a “scam” and accusing the Modi dispensation of “compromising” on national interest and security.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi led the charge against the government and alleged there was a “scam” in the Rafale deal between India and France which was “personally got done” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his “reliable buddy”.
“Modiji had personally gone to Paris. Personally, the deal was changed. Entire India knows it. And the defence minister is saying she will not inform India, the Indian martyrs and their relatives about the money spent on buying those aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is some scam,” Gandhi said outside the Parliament.
The Congress president also said that it was “for the first time” that the country’s defence minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) was not sharing the purchase price of the aircraft as he asked the media why it was not raising questions on the issue.
In a tweet, he targeted the government over what he called “the great Rafale mystery”. “Top Secret (Not for Distribution)/the defence minister says the price negotiated for each Rafale jet by the prime minister and his ‘reliable’ buddy is a state secret,” he tweeted, without naming the “reliable buddy”.
He claimed in the tweet that the government has adopted a two-point action plan, whereby it would say “informing Parliament about the price is a national security threat” and “brand” those asking about it as “anti-nationals”.
Gandhi’s attack came a day after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to share the details of the deal on the grounds of the security agreement signed between India and France in 2008.
Taking a cue from the party president, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the government was not ready to disclose the price of the Rafale aircraft in Parliament, which raised doubts on its intent.
“The Modi government is indulging in an unforgivable game of compromising national interests and national security. A huge scam is brewing in the procurement of fighter aircraft for Indian Air Force,” said Azad, flanked by party leaders Randeep Surjewala and Rajeev Gowda, at a press conference in Parliament Complex.
The Congress also posed a set of eight questions to the prime minister on the defence deal for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft.
“Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer are in public domain with the government refusing to state the truth,” Azad also said.
The party alleged “complete non-transparency in the disclosure of purchase price of aircraft, flagrant violation of the mandatory provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure and prior clearance from Cabinet Committee on Security.”
These factors and “sacrificing national interests on Transfer of Technology and blatant promotion of financial interests of crony capitalist friends by the prime minister have marred the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by Modi government from Dassault Aviation of France”, the party said.
The Congress leaders also accused the Modi government of adopting “lame duck diversionary tactics” on the Rafale deal, saying it was the time the prime minister to answer.
Azad said the government must disclose the price of 36 fighter aircraft which Modi purchased off-the-shelf during his visit to France in violation of the set procedures.
He alleged that as per information the per aircraft price during the NDA comes to Rs 1,570.8 crore against Rs 526.1 crore negotiated during the UPA.
He also asked, “while the aircraft was sold for Rs 694.8 crore to Qatar by the same company, why was it sold for 100% more price to India?”
“Why are the prime minister and the defence minister hiding the purchase price?” asked Surjewala.
India inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale jets.