Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday accused Congress President Rahul Gandhi of using their previous day’s meeting for “petty political gains”. Parrikar denied that the two leaders had discussed the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Parrikar is suffering from pancreatic cancer. After meeting him on Tuesday, Gandhi had told party workers in Kochi that Parrikar had told him that he had nothing to do with the renegotiated aircraft deal between India and France.
Parrikar was the defence minister when the deal was signed in 2016. 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 accused Gandhi of making a false statement. In a letter to the Congress leader, Parrikar said he felt let down by his claims. “In the five minutes you spent with me, neither did you mention anything about Rafale, nor did we discuss anything about/related to it,” Parrikar wrote. “Nothing whatsoever about Rafale was even mentioned in your meeting with me.”
The Congress chief had not clarified whether Parrikar made the remark when they met on Tuesday.
Parrikar said Gandhi had stooped low by making the claim and questioned the sincerity and purpose of his visit. “I thought your visit would give me your good wishes in that cause of serving our people,” he said. “Little did I know that you had other intentions.”
Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah tweeted that Rahul Gandhi had shown how “insensitive” he is “by lying in the name of a person fighting a disease”. “The people of India are disgusted by your reckless behaviour,” he said.
The Congress on January 2 had released an audio clip in which it claimed 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 Parrikar 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.
Earlier this week, Gandhi had claimed that the audio clip was authentic.