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‘Flogging a dead horse’: BJP’s comeback on Rahul’s attack on Rafale

Union minister Piyush Goyal hit back at Rahul Gandhi and Congress over their allegations in connection with the Rafale deal, calling it an “issue-less party”.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2018 15:27 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Piyush Goyal,BJP,Congress
Union minister Piyush Goyal addresses a press conference at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Friday. (Twitter)

The Bharatiya Janata Party on Friday hit back at the Congress for “flogging a dead horse”, and claimed the BJP-led government negotiated a far better Rafale aircraft deal than what was agreed upon by the United Progressive Alliance.

“We have, of late, been experiencing the activities of a serial liar. Only an issue-less man can repeat a lie again and again,” Union minister Piyush Goyal said during a press conference.

“Repeating lie after lie, falsehood over falsehood is not going to help to change the reality. I think Congress party is an issue-less party and their leadership cannot understand the basic facts and possibly trying to hide their own wrongdoing,” Goyal said as he defended his government against Gandhi’s onslaught over the fighter jet deal.

Gandhi has repeatedly attacked the government and on Thursday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “corrupt person” who came to power “on the promise of fighting corruption”. He also said defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s ongoing three-day visit to France was a part of a “great cover-up”.

The minister is expected to visit the French plane-maker Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighter jet manufacturing facility outside Paris on Friday.

Several reports have alleged that Dassault was forced to choose Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government despite its having almost no experience in the aviation sector.

The National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA’s) decision to enter an $8.7 billion deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later. This replaced the previous UPA regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft.

The deal has become controversial with the Opposition claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the Rs 526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft.

The minister’s comment came after Dassault clarified on Thursday that an executive’s reported comment about an “imperative and mandatory” joint venture with Reliance Defence was in reference to the offset part of the government-to-government deal between France and India for the Rafale aircraft.

Dassault reiterated that it had “freely chosen” Reliance as an offset partner for the Rafale deal and sold 36 fighters to India within the framework of an intergovernmental agreement between the two countries in its statement, seen as a response to the report by French news website Mediapart that cited the executive’s remarks.

Separately, Dassault’s CEO Eric Trappier told AFP that the joint venture with Reliance will meet about 10% of the firm’s offset obligations required by the contract for the jets and that they are in talks with about 100 Indian firms, including around 30 with which they have already confirmed partnerships.

“Yesterday, we got more clarity from the CEO of Dassault Aviation, who has confirmed that since the implementation of offsets was an obligation, they themselves chose partners to implement offsets,” Goyal said.

Goyal said the BJP-led government has got a faster delivery, longer maintenance tenure, better availability of spare parts and much-needed defence capabilities.

“We have a crystal clear situation, where, for keeping national interests and security of the nation as paramount, the government decided to expedite the procurement of very crucial defence equipment,” he said.

Goyal accused the Congress president of lying in Parliament where Gandhi talked about personally meeting the French president and asking him about the secrecy of the Rafale deal.

“It only shows the hollowness of knowledge that he does not know that secrecy pact was done in 2008 by then PM Manmohan Singh,” the minister said.

“The Congress decided to compromise national security and drop the entire procurement of the crucial equipment, just because a close associate to their family was not being entertained,” he accused.

“It is time the Congress understood that this is a government with the highest standards of transparency and probity.”

First Published: Oct 12, 2018 14:30 IST