Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday claimed that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was “spinning lies” to “defend the indefensible”, with regard to the Rafale deal with France. Jaitley had sought to downplay former French President Francois Hollande’s claim that the Indian government favoured Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the offset contract with Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the jets.
Jaitley said attempts were being made to create a controversy on the basis of Hollande’s statement. He claimed that Hollande had contradicted himself in a subsequent statement. “Truth cannot have two versions,” the finance minister said.
However, Gandhi tweeted: “Mr Jetlie’s specialty is his ability to spin ‘2 truths’, or lies, with fake self righteousness and indignation to defend the indefensible. It’s high time he, the RM [Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman], our Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] stop lying and call a Joint Parliamentary Committee to establish the full, uncorrupted truth.”
Since Saturday, several Bharatiya Janata Party leaders, including Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Sitharaman, have refuted allegations made by the Congress against the Narendra Modi-led administration.
In 2012, the United Progressive Alliance government started negotiating with Dassault to buy 126 Medium Multi-Rule Combat Aircraft. According to the negotiations back then, Dassault was to supply 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition, while state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, along with the company, was to manufacture 108 aircraft in India. However, the deal did not work out.
In September 2016, India agreed to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft worth Rs 59,000 crore from France after signing the deal. Later that year, Reliance Defence joined the deal’s offset programme through Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd, in which it holds a 51% stake. Dassault Aviation owns 49% of the joint venture, which was announced in India in October 2016.