Union minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday accused the Congress of “manufacturing a controversy” surrounding the Rafale deal. Writing on his blog, Jaitley claimed the Opposition party distorted facts to cover the “inherent and inbuilt limitations” of its leader, Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
On July 20, Gandhi had lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal with France. The Congress president claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him that there was no secrecy pact between the two countries about the deal. Following Gandhi’s speech, France issued a statement that said a 2008 agreement between Paris and New Delhi bound the two countries to protect classified documents and it applied to the Rafale deal.
“The Congress Party realises that there is a danger of the next election becoming a referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s performance,” Jaitley wrote on Tuesday. “The popularity gap between the prime minister and his competitors is very wide.”
Jaitley claimed that the Congress had a two-fold strategy. “If you have no issue, manufacture one,” Jaitley wrote. He added that the second strategy involved attacking the “federal front” to reclaim the minority vote.
“Comparison of Hindus with ‘Taliban’ and phrases such as ‘Hindu Pakistan’ are intended to help it against the federal front to reclaim the minority vote,” he said. “This strategy also is likely to backfire. As equal participants in the Indian electoral process, the minorities have a constitutional right of a vote. But so does the majority. By redefining secularism as a euphemism for majority bashing, the Congress Party is antagonising the majority against itself.”
Jaitley was referring to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s comments. On July 11, Tharoor said India would turn into a Hindu Pakistan if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won the 2019 General Elections. A day after the BJP’s youth wing activists vandalised his office in Thiruvananthapuram on July 16, Tharoor had asked if the saffron party has started a Taliban in Hinduism.
On Monday, the BJP accused the Congress of “collectively singing falsehoods” to defend the comments made by its Gandhi on the Rafale deal. The Bharatiya Janata Party has submitted a privilege notice against Gandhi in the Lok Sabha, accusing him of misleading Parliament by making false allegations against Modi and Sitharaman.
Congress seeks permission to file breach of privilege motion against Modi
Meanwhile, the Congress party submitted a letter to Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan, seeking permission to move a breach of privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. The Opposition party claimed Modi and Sitharaman misled the House on the Rafale fighter jet deal during the debate on the no-confidence motion.
“The 2008 agreement does not state that ‘commercial costs’ of procurement of defence deals cannot be revealed,” the letter said.