New Delhi, Nov 17: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday slammed the Congress Party for raising questions over the procurement deal of 36 Rafale fighter jets with French company Dassault. Sitharaman alleged that inaction by the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government resulted in a delay in the deal.

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi had said the deal has proven costlier for India and the awarding of the deal to a defence production firm with no experience in defence equipment production was a clear case of ‘crony capitalism’.

The Defence Minister said that the condition of Air Force was very grim in 2014 when the National Democratic Alliance led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was elected to power. “Between 2004 and 2014, entire decade the UPA could not arrive at a decision. Twelve long years of negotiations and still (there was) no decision, although critically recognising the need for strengthening the Air Force,” said Sitharaman.

“Allegations relating to the Rafale deal are shameful, the deal was finalised following a transparent procedure,” added Sitharaman.

Earlier, Air Staff Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa also clarified the deal was inked in a very fair and transparent manner. “It is not overpricing… We have negotiated for 36 French fighter aircraft Rafale (at a price) lower than that in the contract. The government has negotiated a very good deal,” Dhanoa said.

“It is definitely a better deal. It is lower than what was there in the MRMCA contract,” Dhanoa added.