Mumbai, Jan 18 (PTI) Senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan Friday termed the Centre’s “urgency” argument regarding the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets, instead of an earlier agreed number of 126, as “ludicrous”.

He also questioned the Narendra Modi government on why the entire order of 126 fighter aircraft was not given to Dassault (manufacturers of the Rafale jet) itself.

“According to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the first Rafale will come to India only by the end of 2019, or four years and eight monnths after PM Modi’s announcement in Paris on April 10, 2015. Egypt got its first batch of Rafales delivered in six months. Why not India,” Chavan asked in a tweet.

Posting the time line of the Egypt-France Rafale deal, Chavan said the deal was signed in Cairo for 24 Rafale jets on February 16, 2015.

The first batch of three Rafales was delivered on July 21, 2015, the second batch of three jets came in January 2016, another three in the 3rd batch came on April 4, 2017, fourth batch of two jets was delivered on July 27, 2017 while another three came in the 5th batch on November 28, 2017, he tweeted.

Chavan, a former MoS in the PMO and former Maharashtra chief minister, asked if the Indian Air Force needed 126 aircraft, why was the number reduced to 36.

“Did the then IAF chief object? If according to Arun Jaitley, the cost of one jet was nine per cent less, why wasn’t the entire order of 126 jets given to Dassault alone,” Chavan asked.

Describing the defence minister’s statement about “urgency” as ludicrous, Chavan said even after four years and eight months, India is yet to get the first delivery of Rafale jet.

He said Egypt, which signed the deal in February 2015, has already got 14 of its 24 Rafale jet deal over two years.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.