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Rahul Gandhi rebuts FM Jaitley on defence deals

Congress chief shows replies by UPA defence minister Antony specifying prices of fighter jets purchased. On Thursday, FM had accused the Congress of “manufacturing” corruption charges against the NDA govt by questioning the deal.

india Updated: Feb 10, 2018 00:00 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rahul Gandhi,Arun Jaitley,Sukhoi-30 MKI
Finance minister Arun Jaitley outside the Parliament after a BJP parliamentary meet in New Delhi.(Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday refuted finance minister Arun Jaitley’s contention that the UPA government had not divulged details of defence deals either, and produced three written replies by former defence minister AK Antony specifying the costs incurred on the Sukhoi-30 MKI and Mirage 2000 fighters as well as the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier to prove his point.

Urging the government to come clean on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, the Congress chief tweeted: “Dear Mr Jaitlie, you said the UPA never released prices of Defence purchases? To nail your lie, here are 3 Parliamentary replies by the UPA with full transparency on pricing. Now do ask our Raksha Mantri to tell India how much each Rafale jet cost.”

The Congress president had last misspelt the finance minister’s name as “Jaitlie” in another tweet on December 27, prompting BJP Rajya Sabha MP Bhupendra Yadav to move a privilege motion against him. As Gandhi is a member of the lower house, Rajya Sabha chairperson M Venkaiah Naidu forwarded the complaint to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan. The matter is currently pending before the Lok Sabha ethics committee, chaired by BJP veteran LK Advani.

Gandhi was responding to a statement by BJP spokesperson GVL Narsimha Rao. “Daal mein kuch kala nahi hai, aapki niyat mein khot hai (Something is fishy here, and something is wrong with your intentions). Mr Jaitley had given several examples where information was not disclosed by the UPA defence minister… Your entire political career so far is founded on lies and propaganda, and this is detrimental to national security. While earning commissions was the only thing you cared for in defence deals, national security is of paramount importance for the Modi government,” Rao had said.

The finance minister on Thursday accused the Congress of “manufacturing” corruption charges against the NDA government by questioning the Rafale deal. In his reply to a discussion on the budget, Jaitley also said he has responses from UPA defence ministers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony which show that they had refrained from sharing details of defence purposes due to security concerns too.

In his tweet, Gandhi tagged three separate written replies by Antony to questions on the acquisition cost of the INS Vikramaditya (formerly the Admiral Gorshkov) and 42 Sukhoi-30 MKI aircraft, besides the upgrade rate of the Mirage 2000.

The Congress president has also accused defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman of changing her stance from November 2017, when she assured that the price of Rafale aircraft will be revealed, to February this year, when the information suddenly became a “state secret”. Party members disrupted Lok Sabha proceedings on Friday, demanding a statement from the government on the deal.

Later, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala posed a set of questions to the government, asking it to disclose the “purchase price” of each fighter aircraft as well as information on how the agreement was reached.

“As the Modi government stumbles and fumbles, hides and conceals, indulges in doublespeak, sacrifices national interest and refuses to answer on loss to the public exchequer, India will continue to demand answers,” he told reporters.

Besides listing out a series of questions on issues such as the price of aircraft and secrecy surrounding the deal, Surjewala alleged that the government had not taken prior permission from the cabinet committee on security.

“What is the price per unit of the 36 Rafale aircraft being purchased by the Modi government? Did Nirmala Sitharaman not agree to share the price of Rafale aircraft at a press conference in Raksha Bhawan on November 17, 2017?” he asked.

First Published: Feb 09, 2018 23:46 IST