New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president Amit Shah on Friday lauded Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for ‘completely demolishing Congress party’s lies’ on Rafale fighter jets deal. “A LIE goes only so far and no further. Defence Minister has completely demolished Congress party’s lies and misinformation campaign on Rafale with her excellent speech loaded with facts. I congratulate her for bringing the truth to the nation,” he tweeted.

Meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said that the Defence Minister did not answer any of his posers on the Rafale deal and “ran away”. “The defence minister did not answer any of the questions I asked on the Rafale deal. She did not even take the name of Anil Ambani,” he told reporters outside Parliament.

“I asked that after a long negotiation process, those people who participated in that negotiations — Air Force chief, defence minister, secretaries, Air Force officials — when the prime minister did a ‘bypass surgery’… Did the Air Force people object, yes or no. And you saw that instead of answering this, the defence minister started doing drama that ‘I have been insulted, I was called a liar’,” he said.

Earlier in the day, Sitharaman gave a point-by-point rebuttal over the charges levelled against the Centre in connection with the Rafale fighter jets deal. Hitting back at Rahul Gandhi for terming her ‘jhoothi’ and PM Narendra Modi ‘chor’, she said, “The PM is not corrupt, no one has the right to call him ‘chor’.”

“I don’t have a ‘khandan’ to boast on. PM also comes from a poor background. He has come here from hard work. I have my honour intact. PM has his honour intact. We have all come from normal backgrounds,” she said amid ruckus in Lok Sabha.

Tearing into the Congress, the Defence Minister accused it of misleading the country with “falsehood” on Rafale deal and said while the Bofors scam brought the Congress down, Rafale will bring PM Narendra Modi back into power.

During her nearly two-hour-long reply, Sitharaman also spoke on price of the fighter aircraft and HAL not getting the offset contract, and alleged that the Congress stalled the deal when it was in power as it “didn’t get money” and ignored national security.

“Defence Ministry has been functioning without dalals (middlemen) during five years of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. Rafale is a decision in national interest. I don’t want to talk about Bofors because Bofors was a scam and Rafale is not. Bofors brought them down. Rafale will bring us back, Rafale will bring Modi back to have a new and transforming India and… Remove the corruption which is stinking around the Congress,” she said.

On the other hand, Congress president Rahul Gandhi in response to Sitharaman’s statement in Lok Sabha said, “I am not accusing you or Manohar Parrikar. I am accusing Narendra Modi.” He asserted that the Congress has a proof that the Prime Minister is involved in Rafale scam.

He said, “Defence Minister talked for two hours, but you never said who gave the contract to Anil Ambani.”

“French President Macron said that ‘Price is not a part of the secret pact, and you are welcome to say this publicly.’ There was another statement by ex-president Hollande, and he stated that Mr Anil Ambani’s name was provided to me by the Prime Minister of India and the government of India,” he added further.

The Defence Minister took the Congress head-on and said, “We did not mislead the Supreme Court. Rahul Gandhi is misleading the nation.”

“You are misleading the country by saying the NDA government reduced 126 Rafale jets to 36. Congress was supposed to buy 18 in fly-away condition, the NDA raised that to 36,” she said.

“CAG is conducting performance audit of capital acquisition of air systems including the 36 Rafale. Complete draft audit report has been received in Ministry of Defence in December 2018. Response is under preparation,” the Defence Minister added.

She accused the Congress of compromising with national security in the interest of the party’s “treasury” while deciding on buying 126 fighter jets. The minister informed the house, that the delivery of first Rafale, under the deal finalised by the NDA government, will happen in 2019, while the last of 36 jets will be delivered in 2022.

With regard to pricing difference, Sitharaman said there was no formal price noting by the Congress of Rs 526 crore as the deal price. But the price negotiated by the NDA government is nine per cent lower than what was negotiated by UPA.