Congress leader and former minister Veerappa Moily on Thursday accused Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa of lying and suppressing the truth on the Rafale deal but later retracted his statement, NDTV reported.

Dhanoa on Wednesday had called the Rafale deal a game changer and said that the Supreme Court had given a “fine judgement” on dismissing petitions seeking an inquiry into the government’s procurement of the fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation, PTI reported. “We need it, given our strategic scenario,” he had said.

Moily said Dhanoa had visited the Bengaluru headquarters of the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised the aircraft deal and found it a “competent body with necessary expertise” for an offset contract.

“Today, to say it [the judgement] is fine...I think that IAF chief is not fine....he is not fine, he is lying,” Moily said. “He is suppressing the truth. He is a party to suppressing the truth.”

Moily later retracted the statement. “The question is, is he justifying it on the basis of the Supreme Court judgement which is flawed?” he asked. “In the light of this, whether the IAF chief can again certify that this is fine. I am asking him that question. I never called him a liar. If this HAL is fine... Both of them cannot be fine.” Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had lost out on the defence deal, which has been a point of criticism by Opposition parties including the Congress.

Union minister Prakash Javadekar said Moily’s statement was unfortunate, reported Hindustan Times. “This shows that their [Congress party’s] desperation is complete, and they are totally shattered by the speed of inquiry against corruption.”

Amit Malviya, who is in charge of Bharatiya Janata Party’s IT cell, questioned Moily’s remarks and asked if the Congress was the “only purveyor of truth”.

BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said Moily’s remarks were an insult to the nation and sought a public apology from him, reported The New Indian Express.