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Rafale row: Shameful that boss is silencing you, Rahul Gandhi tells Nirmala Sitharaman

In a Twitter post, the Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi yet again attacked the BJP-led central government and alleged the terms of the Rafale fighter jet deal were changed to benefit a certain businessman.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2017 07:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rafale jet,Rafale deal,Rafale
In this file photo, a Dassault Rafale fighter jet takes part in a flying display during the 49th Paris Air Show.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday hit out at defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the Rafale deal and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of bypassing procedure in finalising the purchase of 36 fighter jets with the French.

In a tweet, the Congress leader posed three questions to Sitharaman who on Friday defended the Rs 59,000-crore deal and described as shameful that the previous government, led by the Congress, failed to serve the military’s interests and was now “bickering” over the price.

Referring to Sitharaman as RM, short for Raksha Mantri (defence minister), Gandhi tweeted, “Dear RM, what’s shameful is your boss silencing you.

“Please tell us: 1. Final price of each Rafale jet? 2. Did PM take CCS permission before announcing purchase in Paris? 3. Why PM bypassed experienced HAL & gave the deal to AA rated businessman with no defence experience?”

The opposition party says the deal, announced during Modi’s visit to France in 2015 and signed a year later, is overpriced, violates procedures and is tailored to help an industrialist.

The party has also said each fighter would cost Rs 1,570 crore compared to Rs 526 crore under the older deal.

The per unit cost of a jet was “absolutely” and “undoubtedly” lesser than what the UPA regime was negotiating, Sitharaman said.

Due process of clearance from the cabinet committee on security was followed with active participation of then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, she had said, adding the Congress’ charges were politically motivated.

India floated a global tender in August 2007 to buy 126 planes but it stood cancelled after Modi declared in April 2015 India would buy 36 Rafales from France under a government-to-government deal.

Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa , too, has denied that the jets were overpriced. “Technology may not be going to the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) but it is coming to the Defence Research and Development Organisation and then to a lot of Indians,” the air chief marshal said on Thursday.

The Congress has sought to link the Rafale agreement with Dassault to a partnership between the French company and Reliance Defence Limited (RDL). RDL has dismissed the charges as “baseless and unfounded” and threatened to take legal action against any party disseminating “defamatory allegations”.

First Published: Nov 18, 2017 18:05 IST