New Delhi: To further its attack on the Narendra Modi government over the controversial Rafale deal, the Congress will on Wednesday meet the meet Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) to seek a probe into the alleged irregularities in the high-profile Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
A Congress delegation would meet at 11.15 am and party leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ahmed Patel, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Vivek Tankha are likely to be part of the delegation. Congress President Rahul Gandhi may also join for the meet.
Yesterday, launching yet another offensive against the BJP government over the Rafale deal, senor Congress leader A K Antony accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “suppressing facts” and asked if the price finalised by the NDA was cheaper than negotiated by UPA why it bought only 36 aircraft and why not 126 aircraft.
The Congress leader also asked why the government was not setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the fighter jet deal and why it is shying away from it.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, rejected the demand saying all the details on it have already been placed before Parliament. She, however, did not give any direct reply on Antony’s charge on why the NDA did not buy more aircraft if its price was cheaper.
Antony also accused the government of being “guilty” of “gravely compromising” national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal and accused prime minister Narendra Modi of violating the defence procurement procredure (DPP).
Rejecting the charge levelled by Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 had put the “final nail in the coffin” when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal, he said this is completely false.
“Her allegations are completely false and she is deliberately suppressing the facts,” Antony said, adding when the proposal was sent to Finance Ministry, it did not support the life cycle cost concept.
The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector HAL both nationally and globally.
Sitharaman instead slammed the UPA alleging that it did not extend support to HAL, saying, “The UPA did not care for either the Indian Air Force or the HAL. To say that we are not taking care of HAL is totally incorrect.”
The Congress has been continuously holding a series of press conferences on the Rafale issue, raising several questions on the deal done by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government with France to purchase the Rafale fighter jets. However, the Centre has denied all the allegations imposed by the opposition.
The Rafale jets were chosen during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) tenure in 2012. Initially, India had planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run aerospace and defence company HAL.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government scrapped the UPA’s plan in 2015 and announced that it would buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale jets instead of seeking a technology transfer from France’s Dassault Aviation and making the aircraft in India.