Oppn flogging the dead horse on Rafale: Nirmala

Oppn flogging the dead horse on Rafale: Nirmala

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday accused the Opposition in Lok Sabha of "flogging the dead horse" to keep the Rafale deal issue alive while working to the tunes of "multinational corporate warfare".

This came after the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other Opposition party members created a ruckus in the House demanding the constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the fighter jet deal following a newspaper report which claimed the defence ministry had protested the "undermining" of the Rafale negotiations by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

"When, periodically, the PMO inquires about progress of any work, it cannot be construed as interference. Every question on Rafale is over and done with. The newspaper and the Opposition parties are flogging a dead horse," she said in the Lok Sabha, while making a statement on the issue during the Zero Hour amid din.

The defence minister alleged that the Opposition parties were raising the issue with "vested interest".

"They are not interested in the Indian Air Force getting powerful. They are working to the tunes of multinational corporate warfare. They are damaging this country. I charge them with that offence," she said.

The minister also questioned the "ethics" of the newspaper which published the report as well as that of the Opposition parties, whose members were protesting on the floor of the House on the issue with copies of the newspaper report in their hands, shouting slogans like "chowkidaar chor hai".

She told the Lok Sabha that the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had "very clearly" said in his response to the file, asking the then defence secretary to "remain calm, there is nothing to worry, things are going all right".

"To that extent, a detailed reply was given by the then defence minister. If the newspaper wanted to bring the truth out, I would have thought that it was incumbent upon that newspaper to put the reply of the then Raksha Mantri also on record," she said.

Targetting the Congress, Sitharaman asked if the National Advisory Council (NAC) under Sonia Gandhi had interfered with the functioning of the Manmohan Singh government during the erstwhile regime of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

"Did she (Sonia) interfere? Was that interference? If that was interference, talk about it (Rafale issue). At that time, the NAC was running the PMO," she said.

Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the Opposition members as to why they have been raising the issue "every now and then".

"Any newspaper will write anything and you want to raise it here in the House. Is the prime minister nobody?" she asked.

The Opposition, however, remained firm on their demand for a JPC probe.

Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge dubbed the Modi government "anti-national", saying "we do not what any more explanation. We want JPC."