Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday accused the Opposition of spreading misinformation about the Rafale fighter jet deal with France and asked if it had become a pawn in a corporate rivalry, PTI reported.
Sitharaman accused the Opposition of doing a “disservice” to the nation by misinforming the public. “You [opposition] are misinforming the public and doing a disservice to the country if you are becoming pawns in corporate rivalry,” she said. “Is India’s interest at the top of your agenda or are you becoming a partner to some kind of corporate rivalry?”
Sitharaman, addressing a seminar on “India’s Strategic Interest in the Context of the Rafale Deal” in New Delhi, inquired if the Opposition’s aim was to “sabotage” the procurement of the 36 Rafale jets. “If the intention is to stop the purchase, that’s disservice to the nation,” she said.
Sitharaman claimed that the Narendra Modi-led government had made a conscious effort to keep middlemen at bay from the Ministry of Defence. “None of us should play party to any corporate warfare,” she said. “We cannot become pawns in the hands of the corporate giants to constantly bully the government, to constantly throw misinformation at the public, to misinform the public.”
In response, the Congress alleged that Sitharaman’s remarks about “corporate warfare” proved that the government had given preference to corporate interests over national interest, PTI reported.
Spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi said the statement had “conclusively proved that this is a government of the suited-booted, for the suited-booted and by the suited-booted”.
Sitharaman’s remarks came a day after the Defence Ministry dubbed as “factually inaccurate” a report in The Hindu claiming that Modi’s decision to buy 36 jets instead of 126 as negotiated by the previous United Progressive Alliance government increased the price of each aircraft by 41%. The Congress, meanwhile, had reiterated its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee investigation into the deal.
The ministry said the government had given the Comptroller and Auditor General access to all the files related to the deal and that it would be best to wait for the report of an authoritative agency like the CAG.