‘Flogging a dead horse’: Sitharaman dismisses Rahul’s new Rafale charge
Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the new charge by Rahul Gandhi that PM Modi ignored the objections raised by defence ministry officials on Rafale deal.Updated: Feb 08, 2019 14:29 IST
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday launched a counter-attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi over Rafale deal. She said raising the Rafale deal issue on the basis of a media report is “flogging a dead horse.” She accused the opposition parties of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests.
Sitharaman also questioned Gandhi over his criticism that the prime minister diverted “Rs 30,000 crore to his industrialist friend Anil Ambani” which could have been used for defence forces. Sitharaman said, “It is very dangerous…Is he trying to provoke the defence forces?”
The defence minister earlier defended the Rafale deal in the Lok Sabha, where she made a suo motu statement after the opposition members disrupted the proceedings in the house and demanded clarification from the government over a report published by The Hindu.
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The report claimed that at the height of the Rafale negotiations, defence ministry officials objected to “parallel parleys by the PMO” with the French authorities.
Gandhi read out portions from the report at a press conference in New Delhi and said the report has confirmed “what we have been saying for a year”. He said it is “crystal clear” that PM Modi bypassed the defence ministry in signing Rafale deal.
Gandhi repeated his charge against PM Modi saying, “Chowkidar chor hai (the watchman is a thief.” In her response, Sitharaman also objected to the “language” used by Gandhi. “I honestly expected more from the Congress party,” she said.
The defence minister also questioned the “journalistic ethics” of the newspaper that published a defence ministry note “selectively”. She said, “A newspaper published a file noting written by Defence Secretary. If a newspaper publishes a noting then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister’s reply as well.”
Sitharaman said, “Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ji replied to that MoD note that remain calm. There is nothing to worry about. Everything is going alright. Now, do you call the NAC (the national advisory council during the Manmohan Singh government) led by Sonia Gandhi as interference in earlier the PMO? What was that?”
Responding to the defence minister’s reply in the Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said the government has offered enough explanation, it must now set up a joint parliamentary committee for probe. “We demand a joint parliamentary committee, everything will be revealed then, we don’t want any explanation now, have heard many explanations, from PM also,” he said.
The Hindu report that created fresh controversy over Rafale deal claimed that senior defence ministry officials objected to what they termed “parallel parleys” by the PMO officials with the French authorities while the Indian Negotiating Team was handling the talks for procuring fighter jets for the Indian Air Force. The Rafale deal was signed between India and France at the inter-governmental level in 2016 for the purchase of 36 fighter jets.