New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday addressed a press conference to respond to the charges levelled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Lok Sabha in connection with the Rafale fighter jet deal. He also dared Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a debate on the controversy for 20 minutes.
Hitting back at Jaitley’s ‘kindergarten arithmetic’ jibe made in the Lok Sabha earlier today, Rahul said that the numbers 526 and 1,600 were given by the Finance Minister himself.
“You told the nation in your speech that it is Rs 58 thousand crore deal, dividing it by 36 planes, each plane amounts to Rs 1600 crore,” he said.
Asserting that the price of rafale aircraft has been inflated from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore, the Congress chief questioned the Narendra Modi government who raised the fight jet’s pricing.
“Why the PM and the defence minister, who were the decision makers in Rafale deal, cannot defend it in Parliament,” questioned Rahul Gandhi.
Citing the audio tape of Manohar Parrikar’s purported claim he had a file on the Rafale jet deal “lying in his bedroom”, Rahul said that the Goa CM was “effectively blackmailing the prime minister” over the Rafale deal.
Rahul further claimed that the audio tape on Parrikar was authentic and that there might be other tapes too. “I asked the Lok Sabha Speaker can I play the tape, Speaker refused to allow me to play it, so there was no question of authenticity of the tape there. Congress has already played it. Also, there might be other tapes as well,” he said.
The Congress president also accused the prime minister of benefitting his “business friend” Anil Ambani with the Rs 30,000 crore deal by snatching it from HAL.
“Anil Ambani, who never manufactured an aircraft, was given the contract while HAL, which has been manufacturing aircrafts for the last 70 years, was sidelined. Whose decision was this?” questioned Rahul Gandhi.
He further challenged PM Modi for a 20-minute debate on the Rafale issue and said that the prime minister “did not have guts” to face him as he was lying.
“I would very much like to have a debate with PM Modi over Rafale. Just give me 20 minutes with the PM, one on one, and everything will be clear. He doesn’t have the guts to come in front,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi furthered his attack on Jaitley, saying that the latter has a “habit of repeatedly lying” and is hiding PM Modi’s lies. “His defence on Rafale deal in Parliament was hollow,” he said.
Earlier in the day, hitting back at Rahul, who alleged a scam in the fighter jet deal, Jaitley said as the Supreme Court has already satisfied its “conscience” on the issue, there was no need for a JPC.
Jaitley said the Congress felt that since “its hands are already soaked in corruption”, it decided to “manufacture” a lie to defame the Modi government which has a clean record.
He also asserted that the bare aircraft was nine per cent cheaper than the one negotiated by the UPA and the weaponised version was 20 per cent cheaper.