Union minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday described Congress President Rahul Gandhi as a “clown prince” and accused him of leading a “campaign of falsehood” against the Rafale deal. In a Facebook post titled “Falsehood of A ‘Clown Prince’”, the finance minister also accused Gandhi of repeatedly lying about loan waivers worth Rs 2,50,000 crore granted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to 15 industrialists.
Jaitley said that he had consistently exposed each falsehood propagated by the Congress party on the deal. However, the party has not replied to any questions raised by him, he said. “In mature democracies those who rely on falsehood are considered unfit for public life,” Jaitley wrote. “Many have been banished from political activity because they were caught lying. But this rule obviously can’t apply to a dynastic organisation like Congress Party.”
In response to his post, the Congress called Jaitley a “court jester” to the “Modi Sultanate”. “Abuse, diversion and deception are the desperate tools of a ‘Lying Jait-LIE’,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
In a series of questions, the Congress asked Jaitley to make public the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited files that show there was an existing agreement between HAL and Dassault Aviation. “Political amnesia and chest thumping cannot obliterate your dismal record of dismantling India’s economic progress or as also the surging non-performing assets resulting out of bankruptcy of economic vision of the Modi government,” Surjewala added.
Last month, in another Facebook post titled “The Rafale Falsehood Repeated”, Jaitley had said the allegations against the Rafale fighter deal were “unsubstantiated” and “fabricated facts”.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for Rs 58,000 crore.
On Wednesday, the former chairperson and managing director of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, T Suvarna Raju, claimed the state-run plane manufacturer could have built Rafale jets in India if the government had signed a work-share contract with French firm Dassault Aviation. In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Raju, who retired on September 1, asked why the Union government was not releasing the files. He, however, added that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited may not have been able to build the planes at the desired “cost-per-piece”.
Taking note of Raju’s interview, Gandhi on Thursday called for Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s resignation. “The RM [Rafale minister] tasked with defending corruption has been caught lying again,” he tweeted. “The former HAL chief, TS Raju, has nailed her lie, that HAL didn’t have the capability to build the Rafale. Her position is untenable and she must resign.”
Jaitley accused Gandhi of not taking public discourse seriously, instead treating it like “a laughter challenge”. “The world’s largest democracy must seriously introspect whether public discourse should be allowed to be polluted by the falsehood of a ‘Clown Prince’,” he said.
On non-performing assets, Jaitley wrote that the United Progressive Alliance government had brushed most of the bad loans under the carpet and made no efforts to recover them. “The only effective move which has taken place in this regard is the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code,” wrote the minister. “It has changed the debtor-creditor relationship in India.”
Earlier this month, Union minister Smriti Irani had also accused former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi of having led a government that “attacked the very core of the Indian banking system” during her party’s rule.