Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday told Bharatiya Janata Party workers to “go on the offensive” to counter the Opposition’s allegations on the Rafale defence deal with France.
The Centre had in 2015 signed a deal with France to acquire 36 Rafale jets. The Congress has claimed that the government kept out state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited from the offset contract with French firm Dassault Aviation in order to benefit businessman Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, which eventually signed the agreement. The Opposition party’s claims were bolstered by former French President Francois Hollande’s assertion earlier this month that the Indian government proposed Reliance’s name for the offset contract.
“Reliance Defence will be supplying some parts to Dassault,” Gadkari told BJP workers at a state-level party meeting in Mumbai on Thursday, PTI reported. “What aircraft will be assembled in Nagpur and who should be Dassault’s vendor is their decision.”
“Dassault has many international parts suppliers,” he added. “It is Dassault’s decision whom to appoint as their vendor.”
The minister of road transport and highways claimed that the Opposition was trying to confuse people about the Rafale deal. “The Indian government had nothing to do with Dassault’s choice,” he said. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has nothing to do with it. The Opposition is unnecessarily creating confusion about this deal. We are a transparent government. We should be on the offensive and not be defensive.”
Gadkari claimed that the cost the National Democratic Alliance government had negotiated for the jets was 40% lower than that which the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance-led government had agreed to. While the Congress-led UPA had planned to buy 126 fighter aircraft, the NDA decided to purchase only 36.
The Union minister said that he “felt sad” about the condition of India’s present fighter jets. “So many fighter planes have crashed till date,” he said. “The condition of helicopters is such that you are sitting in a truck. Modi travels in such helicopters.”