New Delhi:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday hit back at Congress party over the Rafale jet deal in the Lok Sabha, saying that the opposition party does not want the Air Force to be strong and questioned whether it was bidding for a company.

In his reply in Lok Sabha to the debate on Motion of Thanks on the President’s address, PM Modi said, “Congress doesn’t’ want our Air Force to be strong, I am levelling a serious allegation here. You want this Rafale deal to be cancelled, on whose behest? For which company?”  He also accused the Congress of rendering the Army handicapped due to which it was not in a position to launch surgical strikes.

“I want to say it on the floor of Parliament that the Indian National Congress doesn’t want our armed forces to be strong. They don’t want our security apparatus to be strong. Which companies are they bidding for that they are acting so shamefully,” he said.

Modi’s accusation came hours after Gandhi scion, at a Congress event in Delhi, described him as a “darpok” (coward) and dared him to a five-minute face-to-face debate on issues such as Rafale and national security.

The Prime Minister said that the armed forces were adversely affected due to delay in procurements under the Congress rule and its personnel did not have bullet-proof jackets, proper shoes, communication equipment or even helmets.

“You had left the Army unarmed. It was not in a position to carry out surgical strikes,” he said, adding it is a great disservice to the nation.

Modi wondered why advanced jets were not procured for 30 years when India’s neighbours were equipping themselves with latest weaponry. “The nation will not forgive you for this sin,” the prime minister said.

Taking a swipe at the Congress, he said, “They are surprised that there is a defence deal without kickbacks… they assume that a defence deal cannot happen without commission.”

Modi also accused the Congress of insulting Army by calling its chief a “goonda”.

The Congress has left no stone unturned in targeting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in relation to the deal for 36 aircraft. Alleging irregularities, the party has now and then accused the Centre of buying the Rafale fighter jets at a price much higher than the one that was being negotiated by the previous government. The party has also been accusing the government of favouring Anil Ambani’s firm in the deal. However, the government, as well as Ambani, have rejected all the allegations.

(With PTI inputs)