New Delhi: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday told BJP functionaries to go on the offensive to counter the Opposition’s allegations on the Rafale fighter jet deal instead of being defensive.
In an unrelenting tirade against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA over the deal with French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation to buy 36 jets, the Congress has claimed the cost per aircraft is triple compared to the one fixed by the previous UPA government.
It also claims that the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was kept out of the offset deal with the French firm to benefit Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
Speaking at a state-level BJP meeting here, Gadkari said, “Reliance Defence will be supplying some parts to Dassault. What (aircraft) will be assembled in Nagpur and who should be Dassault’s vendor is their decision”.
“Dassault has many international parts suppliers. It is Dassault’s decision whom to appoint as their vendor,” he said.
The road transport and highways minister alleged that the Opposition was trying to create confusion about the deal.
“The Indian government had nothing to do with it (Dassault’s choice of Indian partner). (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi also has nothing to do with the deal. The Opposition is unnecessarily creating confusion about this deal. We are a transparent government. We should be on the offensive and not be defensive on it,” Gadkari told party functionaries.
“India has been buying fighter aircrafts since 2002. I feel sad about the condition of the aircrafts we have right now. So many fighter planes have crashed till date. The condition of helicopters is such that (it feels as if) you are sitting in a truck. Modi travels in such helicopters,” he added.
He claimed the cost negotiated by the NDA for Rafale jets was 40 per cent cheaper than what the UPA had agreed upon.
At a media interaction here on Tuesday, Union minister Prakash Javadekar had claimed that the cost of the jets was 20 per cent lower compared to the price negotiated by the UPA dispensation.
The Rafale controversy took a new turn last week after Francois Hollande, who was French president when the Rs 58,000 crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication Mediapart that France was given “no choice” on selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance as offset partner for the French aerospace giant.
Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.
(With PTI inputs)