Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday reiterated his accusation that the Narendra Modi-led government inflated the figures for the Rafale jet deal and changed the defence procurement procedure to buy 36 aircraft. Gandhi also challenged the prime minister to a 20-minute debate on the subject.
The Congress has accused the Centre of signing an overpriced deal and helping Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Ltd, which had no prior experience in the sector before landing a contract with Dassault Aviation that manufactures the fighter jets. In October 2017, the two defence firms laid the foundation stone for a facility near Nagpur in Maharashtra to manufacture aerospace components.
“They keep asking where does Congress get the Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft figure, let me tell you from where,” Gandhi told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday. “[Arun] Jaitley in his speech in Parliament had said the deal is Rs 58,000 crore, so divide this by 36, what figure do you get? 1,600 crore.”
Gandhi asked Modi if the Indian Air Force objected “when you inflated the price of aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore”. He said the prime minister “changed the contract and made a new contract to help his friend Anil Ambani”.
Gandhi also referred to an audio clip his party had released earlier in the day in which they claim Goa minister Vishwajeet Rane said that former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is aware of all the details of the India-France Rafale jet deal, ANI reported. Parrikar allegedly claimed to have “all the files related to the Rafale deal in his bedroom”. But both Rane and Parrikar have claimed the clip is doctored.
“The tape clearly shows Parrikar has Rafale files in his house,” The Indian Express quoted Gandhi as saying. “There might be other tapes of this nature. The entire Cabinet heard what Parrikar said. He is blackmailing the prime minister with the information he has.”
The Congress president downplayed queries about the Supreme Court’s verdict of the matter. “The Supreme Court verdict stated that probing Rafale scam does not come under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, but they never said that JPC shouldn’t be formed,” he said.
In a tweet later on Wednesday, Gandhi said Modi faces an “open book exam” in Parliament on Thursday and asked if he will show up at the exam. “Here are the exam questions in advance: Q1. Why 36 aircraft, instead of the 126 the IAF needed? Q2. Why 1,600 crore instead of 560 crore per aircraft. Q4. Why AA instead of HAL? Will he show up? Or send a proxy?” he wrote on Twitter.
Earlier in the day, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley criticised Gandhi for levelling allegations of irregularities in the deal with France and dismissed the Opposition party’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee inquiry into the agreement. The minister said there was no need for an inquiry into the matter as the Supreme Court has examined all aspects of the deal to satisfy its conscience. However, the Congress’ electoral needs have not been met, Jaitley quipped.