Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday once again questioned the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Rafale aircraft deal with France, and asked why the contract was awarded to a company with “no defence experience”.
He also said it was shameful that the prime ninister was silencing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Sitharaman had on Friday called the Congress’ allegations over the aircraft contract “shameful”.
“Dear RM [raksha mantri], what’s shameful is your boss silencing you,” Gandhi responded in a tweet.
He demanded to know the final price of each Rafale jet – which the Congress claims was overpriced – and whether the government had taken permission from the Cabinet Committee on Security before finalising the purchase.
In September 2016, India and France signed an agreement under which France would supply New Delhi with 36 Rafale fighter aircraft. The jets will be delivered between September 2019 and April 2022.
The Congress has alleged that the cost of each aircraft is three times what its government had finalised with France in 2012. It has also raised suspicion over Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence’s involvement in a joint venture that will execute part of the deal. Gandhi had accused Modi of altering the agreement “for the benefit of one businessman”, and the party has alleged a “huge scam”.
Sitharaman on Friday accused the previous Congress-led government’s inaction for the delay in finalising the Rafale aircraft deal with France, and called the Congress’ allegations “shameful and a disservice” to the defence forces.
Sitharaman said the deal was finalised following a transparent procedure. She said the urgent requirement of the Indian Air Force was the main reason for sealing the Rafale contract. The Cabinet Committee on Security had approved it before it was signed, she had said.