New Delhi: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Sunday hit back at Congress President Rahul Gandhi after he accused her of lying in Parliament about procurement orders worth Rs 1 lakh crore for state-run aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
Slamming Rahul Gandhi for targeting her over a media report which “not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now”, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday said that the Congress president needed to “start from ABCs”.
The Defence Minister said it was a matter of “shame” that the Congress president was misleading the country on the issue. She also tweeted details of contract awarded to HAL since 2014 when the BJP came to power.
“It’s a shame that the president of @INCIndia is misleading the nation. HAL has signed contracts worth Rs 26570.8 Cr (Between 2014 and 2018) and contracts worth Rs 73000 Cr are in the pipeline. Will @RahulGandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house?” the defence minister tweeted.
Sitharaman’s reaction came after Rahul on Saturday alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “lied” in Parliament that government orders worth Rs one lakh crore were provided to HAL, while demanding that she should either place the documents in support of her statement in the House or resign.
Rahul cited a Times of India report in his tweet to attack the Defence Minister, saying, “When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM’s Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign.”
The media report cited senior HAL management officials in order to back its claim.
In retort, Sitharaman asked the Congress president to read the complete newspaper report, where it has been mentioned that “Sitharaman did not claim the orders were signed, saying they were in the works”.
“Dear Shri @RahulGandhi , looks like you really need to start from ABCs. Someone like you who is hellbent on misleading the public will quote an article even before reading it,” she added.
The Congress has been targeting the government, alleging that it denied the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) an offset contract under the Rafale fighter jets deal with France, in order to benefit Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
On the other hand, the NDA government has accused the Congress of not supporting HAL during its rule and asserted that the government is now strengthening the defence public sector undertaking.
Rahul had on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “weakening” HAL to help his “suit-boot” friend.
Rahul’s attack on Saturday had come over a media report which claimed that HAL, grappling with low finances, was forced to borrow Rs 1,000 crore to pay salaries to its employees for the first time in years.
Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted on Sunday: “The Lying Defence Minister’s Lies Get Exposed! Defence Minister claimed that procurement orders worth Rs 1 Lakh Crore provided to HAL! HAL says Not a SINGLE PAISA has come, as Not a SINGLE ORDER has been signed!”
“For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of ?1000 Cr to pay salaries!,” he added.