Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of “misleading the public” and “spreading lies” hours after he claimed the minister had lied to the Parliament during the debate on the Rafale jet deal in Lok Sabha.
Gandhi had asked Sitharaman to prove her claim that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government had given orders worth Rs 1 lakh crore to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, failing which she should resign. He was referring to a report in The Times Of India, which had quoted unidentified HAL officials as saying that the public sector company was still waiting for the formalisation of orders that Sitharaman had mentioned during her Rafale debate on Friday.
The defence minister asked Gandhi to read the complete report, which mentioned that “Sitharaman did not claim the orders were signed, saying they were in the works”. She advised Gandhi to “start from ABCs” and accused him of “misleading the public”.
“It’s a shame that the president of Congress is spreading lies and misleading the country,” Sitharaman’s office tweeted, adding that HAL had signed contracts worth Rs 26,570.8 crore between 2014 and 2018 and that more worth Rs 73,000 crore were in the pipeline. “Will Rahul Gandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house and resign?”
HAL is currently working on repeat orders for Su-30s, Tejas Mk-1, Advanced Light Helicopters, Light Combat Helicopters and the Mirage 2000 upgrade, NDTV reported.
“When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies to cover up the first one,” Gandhi had tweeted on Sunday. “In her eagerness to defend the PM’s Rafale lie, the RM [defence minister] lied to Parliament.”
“Tomorrow, RM [Sitharaman] must place before Parliament documents showing Rs 1 lakh crore of government orders to HAL. Or resign,” Gandhi had added.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also accused Sitharaman of lying, claiming that her lies had been exposed. “For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of Rs 1,000 crore to pay salaries,” tweeted Surjewala, referring to the The Times Of India report that said HAL’s largest customer, the Indian Air Force, was yet to clear its dues.