New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday hit back at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, accusing him of “lying and repeating falsehood” on the Rafale issue and claimed that “conspirators” in past defence scams are now raising fingers at the Narendra Modi government.
“Congress’ hands are soaked in National Herald, Bofors and AgustaWestland scams. They couldn’t find a fault, so they fabricated a scam,” said Jaitley, responding to the opposition leader’s allegations during a discussion on Rafale issue in Lok Sabha.
“The Congress president only understands paisa (money) and it can never understand the nation and national security,” he said.
Refuting the Opposition’s demand of a JPC probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal, Jaitley said that no one has the right to question the Supreme Court’s verdict. “Supreme Court covered all the issues. SC’s conscience was satisfied, Congress’ poll needs yet to be satisfied,” he said.
“Remember the JPC on Bofors … It said the kickback were winding up charges … It whitewashed corruption,” Jaitley said.
The Finance Minister further alleged that the UPA government failed to conclude the Rafale deal and compromised the national security.
Jaitley claimed that the NDA government struck the deal under better terms as compared to the UPA government, claiming that the present deal was 9 per cent cheaper than what was finalised by the Congress government earlier.
“NDA struck deal under better terms. The negotiating team held 74 meetings after which the deal went to the acquisition council. Rafale was an intergovernmental deal. All due processes were followed and the Supreme Court was satisfied with the procurement process,” he said.
Slamming Congress’ claim that the Rafale deal was snatched from the HAL, Jaitley said that the state-owned aerospace and defence company had told the UPA government that it needed 2.7 times the man hours as compared to the Dassault Aviation. “Air Force needed jets immediately and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was taking longer to deliver,” he said.
Jaitley said Gandhi has a “natural dislike for truth” and had earlier manufactured his conversation with the French president, which was denied by the French government.
“We are all utterly disappointed because every word he has said has been denied by the Supreme Court. When the Supreme Court speaks on an issue, it is the last word,” he said.
Targeting the Gandhi family, he said some people and families understand arithmatic of money but cannot comprehend issues of national security.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi sought permission to play in the Lok Sabha a purported audio tape of former Finance Minister and Goa CM Manohar Parrikar on the Rafale deal but refused to authenticate it.
The Congress leader was disallowed from playing the purported audio tape by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, after Jaitley objected to the same unless Gandhi authenticated it and faced expulsion in case it is found to be false and fabricated.
Gandhi claimed BJP members were “terrified” of the clip in which Goa minister Vishwajit Rane purportedly told somebody that former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had a Rafale file in his bedroom.
“Why did you give this contract to your dear friend Mr AA and cost the exchequer Rs 30,000 crore….
“It is very clear that the prime minister does not have the guts to come to Parliament and confront questions. The defence minister hides behind AIADMK members, the prime minister hides in his room,” Gandhi alleged in the Lok Sabha.
Initiating a discussion on the Rafale issue, Gandhi targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, claiming that he “does not have guts” to come to Parliament to confront questions on the issue and “hides” in his room.
The Congress leader also rejected Modi’s claim in an interview that there was no personal allegation against him, saying this is not true as the entire nation is asking him direct question.
“He (Modi) spoke for 90 minutes in a staged interview but still did not answer questions on the Rafale issue,” Gandhi said.
Is it not true that defence ministry officials objected to the new price of Rs 1600 crore, Gandhi said, accusing Modi of favouring his “dear friend” and “failed businessman” Anil Ambani.