Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday led the party’s attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government for not making public the price of the Rafale fighter aircraft India will buy from France.
Alleging a “scam” in the deal, Gandhi cited defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s written reply to Congress MP Rajeev Gowda’s question in the Rajya Sabha in which she refused to disclose the price of 36 fighter aircraft.
Another Rajya Sabha member, Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Agrawal, also asked whether the Centre did not want to put details of the Rafale deal in public domain.
In her reply, the defence minister stated that protection of classified information and material exchanged under the inter-governmental pact between India and France is governed by the provisions of the security agreement signed between the two nations in 2008.
“For the first time, the defence minister is saying that we will not share details of money spent on buying the aircraft…I spoke during the Gujarat polls that there is a scam (in the Rafale deal). Modiji has personally got the deal done,” Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament.
“Modiji went to Paris. The deal was changed. All India knows it. . And the defence minister is saying she will not inform India, the Indian martyrs and their relatives about the money spent on buying those aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is some scam,” the Congress chief said.
Addressing a news conference, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad posed eight questions to the PM and said the government’s refusal to disclose the price of the Rafale aircraft in Parliament raises “doubts” over its intent.
“Modi government is indulging in an unforgivable game of compromising ‘national interests’ and ‘national security’. A huge scam is brewing in the procurement of fighter aircraft for Indian Air Force,” he alleged.
Accusing the government of adopting “lame duck diversionary tactics”, Azad alleged that as per information the price of one Rafale aircraft during the NDA comes to Rs 1570.8 crore, against Rs 526.1 crore in a deal negotiated during the UPA’s rule that was scrapped.
A defence ministry spokesperson said the government had no response at this time.