Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday termed the allegations levelled against the Centre in connection with the Rafale defence deal as “fiction writing”. His comments came hours after the Supreme Court refused to order an inquiry into India’s Rafale jet deal with French company Dassault Aviation.
Jaitley said the defence deal protected both the security and commercial interests of India. It protected the “security interest because it increases combat ability of India”, while “commercial interest because the final price was significantly lower both for aircraft and weaponised aircraft than what was negotiated in 2007 and 2012”, he said.
The allegations against the defence deal “compromising national security”, the finance minister added. “Whatever allegations were made were outright lies,” he said. “There were 74 meetings on deciding the deal. Those who had conflict of interest also became commentators.”
“All the figures by the government are correct and all the figures by Rahul Gandhi are false and I have justified it,” Jaitley said. “The truth has only one version and falsehood has many. That is why Rahul Gandhi quoted several figures.”
The Union minister further said that falsehood always “lowers the credibility of its creator”. In reference to the Congress’ continued demand for an investigation by a joint parliamentary panel, Jaitley said reviews of this kind can only be done by judiciary and not by a “partisan body”. “The deaf will never receive an answer, they will never hear it,” he added.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated that due process was followed during the deal and there was no commercial favouritism. Quoting from the Supreme Court judgement, she said there was “no scope for complicity when other nations have acquired powerful weapons”.
Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Gandhi’s comments on the deal were being “appreciated by Pakistan”, ANI reported. “Because China and Pakistan have strengthened their Air Force, they want to know about our strength as well,” Prasad said.
Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan praised the Supreme Court for its “great work for India”, ANI reported. “Congress was raising questions on Rafale deal to hide their failures,” Pradhan said. “There was no truth in that and the Supreme Court proved it today. If the Congress and its president have morals, they should apologise to the nation.”
Earlier in the day, BJP President Amit Shah too criticised the Congress and asked Rahul Gandhi to apologise for “misleading the nation” on Rafale deal.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Raghubar Das also joined the BJP’s criticism of Gandhi spreading “lies and misinformation” on the matter, PTI reported.
Petitions seeking an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the Rafale deal had been filed by lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. Lawyer ML Sharma and Vineet Dhanda and Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh had also filed petitions against the deal. On Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed all petitions, and said perceptions of individuals cannot form the basis of judicial interference.
The Congress has accused the government of overpaying for the fighter aircraft and claimed that the deal has benefited businessman Anil Ambani. Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegations were bolstered by former French President Francois Hollande’s claim in September that the Indian government had proposed the name of Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the offset obligations in the deal.
The government has refused to reveal the per-plane price that it has negotiated in the deal, citing a secrecy agreement with France.
In an affidavit submitted in the court, the Indian government said that the procurement process laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure, 2013, had been followed while finalising the deal. Dassault’s Chief Executive Officer Eric Trappier has repeatedly claimed that his company had chosen Ambani’s Reliance Defence to be one of its offset partners and the Indian government had not the dictated the choice.