Rafale: Cong mulls privilege motion against PM, Nirmala

Rafale: Cong mulls privilege motion against PM, Nirmala

The fresh salvo on Rafale deal comes on the direction of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (pic for representation only)

The Congress on Monday said it was planning on initiating a breach of privilege proceeding against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for misleading the Lok Sabha by not revealing the price of Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault.

“Deluding and misleading the people of India, the prime minister and defence minister sought to lie on the floor of Parliament,” said former defence minister A K Antony told reporters at a joint press conference with Congress leaders Anand Sharma, M Rajeev Gowda and Randeep Singh Surjewala.

The fresh salvo on Rafale comes on the direction of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who told party leaders on Sunday to step up the heat on the fighter jet deal as well as on the controversial business dealing of Jay Shah, the son of BJP president Amit Shah.

“Neither the revelation of the commercial cost of Rafale aircraft will violate any secrecy agreement with the French government nor will it reveal any classified or protected information,” Antony claimed, insisting that there was no clause in a 2008 pact between India and France that prevented the government from divulging price details of the Rafale aircraft.

The Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the party was considering submitting a breach of privilege in connection with the Rafale deal. “You will get to know the details in a day or two,” Kharge said, adding that the party was consulting legal experts in this regard.

Antony and Sharma said at least on two occasions – in November 2016 and March 2018 – the government told Parliament that the price of a Rafale aircraft was approximately Rs 670 crore.

They sought to know why Modi and Nirmala had “misled” Parliament on the price issue while participating in the debate on the no-confidence motion on Friday.

“The French government had no objection in revealing the price of the Rafale aircraft. This was conveyed by the French president to Rahul Gandhi,” Sharma said.

Antony and Sharma contended that under the law, the government was bound to provide full information to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament, Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence and the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and asked why the Modi government was not disclosing the commercial cost of the deal.