Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday claimed that former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar told him that he had nothing to do with the renegotiated Rafale aircraft deal between India and France, PTI reported.
The Narendra Modi-led government had in 2015 replaced the former Congress-led government’s deal for 126 jets with a new agreement for 36 aircraft. Parrikar was the defence minister when the deal was signed in 2016. He is now the chief minister of Goa.
Gandhi, who visited the ailing Parrikar on Tuesday, told a booth-level party workers’ meeting in Kochi: “Friends, the ex-Defence Minister Mr Parrikar clearly stated that he has nothing to do with the new deal that was orchestrated by Narendra Modi to benefit Anil Ambani.”
However, the Congress chief did not clarify whether Parrikar, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer, made the remark when he met Gandhi on Tuesday. Gandhi had earlier in the day said that his visit had been a personal one.
“Why was a plane which costs Rs 526 crore bought at Rs 1,600 crore?” Gandhi asked the gathering in Kochi. “The youngsters of the country, the youngsters of Kerala – they get only one answer. The prime minister of India is corrupt.”
The Congress president said thousands of young Indians, who could have secured jobs in Hindustan Aeronautics Limited had the Rafale contract been given to the company, have now “lost an opportunity”. He added that no defence capabilities will be built in India, due to Modi’s decision to renegotiate the deal. According to the earlier deal, 108 out of the 126 aircraft were to be manufactured in India.
On Wednesday, Parrikar denied that he had discussed the Rafale deal with Gandhi, and accused the Congress president of using their meeting “petty political gains”.
Gandhi had claimed on Monday that an audio clip related to the Rafale deal released earlier this month was authentic. The Congress on January 2 had released the clip in which it claimed that someone believed to be Goa minister Vishwajeet Rane said that Parrikar was aware of all the details of the deal. The voice in the clip alleged that Parikar had claimed to have “all the files related to the Rafale deal in his bedroom”. However, both Rane and Parrikar had said the clip was doctored.
Meanwhile, Goa deputy speaker and BJP MLA Michael Lobo has praised Gandhi for visiting the chief minister. “Rahul Gandhi came on a special visit to greet our ailing CM Manohar Parrikar,” Lobo told ANI on Tuesday. “His simplicity and humility have to be admired by all Indians and Goans. He is a very simple person and leaders like him are required in Goa and India.”