New Delhi, January 2 (NDTV): The Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday sought a 20-minute one-on-one US Presidential style debate with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale fighter jet deal. Gandhi, who opened the Lok Sabha debate hours before, had drawn a no-holds-barred counterattack from Union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
At a press conference later, he tore apart Jaitley’s rebuttal and the accusation that he does not “have the understanding of what a combat aircraft is”.
“Jaitley has a habit of repeatedly lying, his defense on Rafale deal in Parliament was hollow,” Gandhi said, repeating the party’s demand for a probe into the Rafale deal by a Joint Parliamentary committee.
“We are very confident that moment there is a JPC, two names will come up – Anil Ambani and PM Modi,” he said.
“Just give me 20 minutes to debate with the PM… the one-on-one debate on Rafale, combat jets… but he doesn’t have the guts,” Gandhi said, repeating the allegation he made in parliament.
The Congress contends that the government had finalized an overpriced deal to benefit Anil Ambani, whose firm Reliance Defence, despite lacking experience, was recommended as an offset partner for Dassault, the company manufacturing the Rafale aircraft.
Both Dassault and the government have denied the Congress’ allegations.
Jaitley had questioned the figures quoted by the Congress, saying the party was “falsely claiming 1,30,000 crore purchases being made… How can that be when the total transaction is of 58,000 crores?”.
“Arun Jaitley himself told Parliament that size of Rafale deal is Rs. 58,000 crore, that is Rs. 1,600 crore for each of the 36 aircraft. It was not our (Congress’s) number but yours (the government’s),” he said.
“If the price of Rafale deal was brought down as claimed by Jaitley, why did we not buy 126 aircraft or more?” he asked.
On Jaitley’s contention that no one could question the Supreme Court was satisfied with the government’s decision, Gandhi said, “In the Supreme Court’s judgment, it was clearly mentioned… the top court clearly said it is not in their purview to investigate… it did not rule out an investigation”.
The Congress chief also repeated the four questions he had posed to the Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha. The fundamental one, he said, was who cut down the number of planes from 126 to 36. Addressing his question to the Prime Minister, he said, “Did you unilaterally do this without asking the IAF?”
The second question, he said, was how the pricing of the aircraft went up. Under the UPA deal, the price of each aircraft was Rs. 526 crore, which spiraled to 1600 crore under the new deal.
“Is it a fact that the new price of 1600 crore per aircraft was objected to by the Defence ministry?… Dear PM, why did you give this contract to your dear friend Anil Ambani and cost the exchequer 30,000 crores?” Gandhi said.
“Even a fool will not compare prices of a simple flyaway Aircraft with a weaponized Jet,” Jaitley later tweeted. Even in the offer made to the UPA government, there were two different prices — one of the flyaway aircraft and the offer of the weaponized aircraft. The Congress, he added, was comparing “two unequal” and calling it a “scam”.