Congrats for Rafale, tweets Rahul Gandhi to IAF; fires 3 questions at Centre
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi took aim at the BJP-led government and fired three questions at the Centre to revive his campaign pitch that alleged irregularities in the deal to buy the 36 jets from French company Dassault Aviation.Updated: Jul 29, 2020 21:38 IST
Rahul Gandhi, who had unsuccessfully centered the Congress campaign against the BJP in the 2019 elections around the deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, on Wednesday tweeted his congratulations to the Indian Air Force after the first batch of the combat aircraft landed at the IAF’s Ambala air base.
Gandhi then took aim at the BJP-led government and fired three questions at the Centre to revive his campaign pitch that alleged irregularities in the deal to buy the 36 jets from French company Dassault Aviation.
The Congress had also tweeted a congratulatory note to the IAF a few hours earlier. That one went ahead to claim credit for zeroing in on the Rafale fighter in 2012. It has finally borne fruit, the Congress had tweeted before going on to accuse the government of buying the jets in an overpriced deal.
The Congress claimed that the deal that was struck by the Manmohan Singh government was in power would have ensured that the Indian Air Force receives 126 fighter jets instead of 36 aircraft. The stark difference between the Congress and BJP deal reveals the BJP’s scam,” the Congress handle said in a post.
“Congratulations to IAF for Rafale. Meanwhile, can GOI answer: 1) Why each aircraft costs Rs 1670 Crores instead of Rs 526 Crores? 2) Why 36 aircraft were bought instead of 126? 3) Why was bankrupt Anil given a Rs 30,000 Crores contract instead of HAL?” Gandhi said in a tweet, reiterating the allegations that had formed the crux of his campaign against PM Modi’s re-election in 2019.
But his campaign themed around these allegations of irregularities and his “chowkidar chor hai” slogan directed at PM Modi had backfired in 2019. Gandhi, 50, had resigned from the leadership role of the Congress soon after the election results were announced and since then, rarely spoken of the Rafale deal.
Wednesday was an exception, possibly given the hype around the first batch of the planes that reached Ambala air base. Gandhi’s congratulatory note to the IAF, however, is also designed to underscore that he did not question the decision of buying the Rafale jets - it was a Congress government which has selected it - but only the terms of the deal.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had earlier in the evening alluded to the political campaign around the deal to praise Prime Minister Narendra Modi for going ahead with the deal. “The Rafale jets were purchased when they fully met the operational requirements of the IAF. The baseless allegations against this procurement have already been answered and settled,” Rajnath Singh tweeted.
The NDA government’s decision to buy 36 Rafales was announced in April 2015, with the deal signed a little more than a year later. This replaced the previous United Progressive Alliance’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited using parts imported from France. A Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit tabled in February last year concluded that the new deal was 2.86% cheaper than the price negotiated by the UPA government. It did not disclose pricing details.