Hours after Arun Jaitley put up 15 questions for the Congress in a Facebook post accusing Rahul Gandhi of “peddling untruth” on the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Congress president had a dare of his own for the Finance Minister. Calling the fighter jet deal a “great Rafale robbery”, Rahul Gandhi asked Mr Jaitley for a Joint Parliamentary Committee on it, and said he would wait for a response for 24 hours.
The Congress president, in his tweet, also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani, without naming the Reliance Group Chairman. He accused PM Modi of “protecting his friend”.
“Mr Jaitley, thanks for bringing the nation’s attention back to the GREAT #RAFALE ROBBERY! How about a Joint Parliamentary Committee to sort it out? Problem is, your Supreme Leader is protecting his friend, so this may be inconvenient. Do check & revert in 24 hrs. We’re waiting!” Mr Gandhi tweeted.
Rahul Gandhi and his Congress have been attacking PM Modi’s government over the deal for 36 Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, citing alleged wrongdoings from selection of a private firm and cost overruns to lack of transparency in releasing finer details of the deal.
Earlier this month in Rajasthan, Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the prime minister had favoured his businessman “friend” Anil Ambani by getting him the “contract”. The reference was to the business that foreign manufacturers are required to bring to Indian firms when a defence deal is signed with the government, under the country’s offset policy. Anil Ambani has already rejected Rahul Gandhi’s allegations and emphasised that the government had no role in the Rafale-manufacturing French firm Dassault picking up his company as a local partner.
Earlier today, Mr Jaitley alleged that “Rahul Gandhi’s misadventure” was seriously compromising national security.
“This (allegations on Rafale deal) is like a kindergarten or primary school debate ‘Well, I was paying 500 something and you’ve paid 1,600 something’. That’s the argument being given; it shows how little understanding Rahul Gandhi has,” Arun Jaitley told news agency ANI. “Every single word in the Congress’s allegation is factually false,” he said.
Mr Jaitley reminded Rahul Gandhi it was the government led by his party that first initiated the deal back in 2007. “Not only did Congress get a bad deal, they compromised national security by abandoning it due to policy paralysis,” said the finance minister, adding that he wants Rahul Gandhi to answer all the points he has raised.
The Rafale multirole jet was chosen in 2012 over rival offers from the US, Europe and Russia. India initially planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from the France’s Dassault Aviation, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run plane-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
PM Modi’s government scrapped the UPA’s plan in 2015 and announced it would buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale jets instead of seeking a technology transfer from Dassault Aviation and making the aircraft in India.
Mr Jaitley said the offset clause for the foreign vendor makes it mandatory for the vendor to partner with an Indian firm. “Let’s be clear, this is a government-to-government arrangement. Offset has nothing to do with this contract… Under a policy devised by the UPA, every defence supplier has to undertake some offsets… Dassault can also enter into contracts with whomever they want,” Arun Jaitley said.