Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday questioned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision not to mention industrialist Anil Ambani even once during her statement in the Lok Sabha on the Rafale jet deal. He vowed that a criminal investigation would be conducted into alleged irregularities in the defence agreement with France if the Congress is voted to power, NDTV reported.
The Congress chief accused Sitharaman of misleading the nation. “You spoke for two hours, but did not mention Anil Ambani’s name even once,” Gandhi said. “You have also not answered our question about who took the decision to give him the contract.”
In 2016, India and France signed an agreement for the supply of 36 Rafale jets to New Delhi. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had negotiated a deal for 126 aircraft. The Congress has accused the government of buying overpriced jets, and also of helping Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence secure an offset contract under the deal after taking it away from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Gandhi also defended his demand to know the price of the deal. “The price is not part of the secrecy pact,” Gandhi said. “My question is Anil Ambani was brought in for the contract. Who was the one to decide on Anil Ambani?”
Gandhi on Thursday had asked “who decided to raise the price of Rafale aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore – the Air Force, Defence Ministry or the Prime Minister?”
“The Air Force requires 126 aircraft,” Gandhi had said. “Who reduced the number of planes to 36? Who decided to give the contract to Anil Ambani?”
On January 2, Gandhi had challenged the prime minister to a 20-minute debate on the subject.