Rahul claims Rafale clip, dares Modi to debate

Rahul claims Rafale clip, dares Modi to debate

Stepping up the attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said the entire country was “pointing fingers” at him over the Rafale aircraft purchases and demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe into the defence deal.

Initiating a debate on the deal in the Lok Sabha, Rahul targeted Modi on three key issues — process, pricing and patronage — and claimed that there were many holes in the Rafale story.

Amid sloganeering from BJP benches, Rahul created a flutter in the Lok Sabha when he sought to play an audio recording of a purported conversation between a Goa minister on the issue but was disallowed by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan contending that it was against the rules and procedures of the House.

Rahul claimed the BJP members were “terrified” of the clip in which the Goa health minister is purportedly heard claiming that former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had a key file on Rafale in his cupboard.

Jaitley interjected to say that Rahul knew it was false and was refusing to authenticate it before placing it on the table of the House.

“Modi does not have the guts to come in Parliament to confront questions on Rafale, but chooses to hide in his room,” an aggressive Rahul said in the Lok Sabha as Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley looked on.

Hours after initiating the debate in the Lok Sabha, Rahul addressed a press conference and dared Modi for a 20-minute one-on-one debate with him on the Rafale issue.

The Congress president also rejected Modi’s claim in an interview that there was no personal allegation against him, saying this is not true as the entire nation is asking him a direct question.

“He (Modi) spoke for 90 minutes in a staged interview but still did not answer questions on the Rafale issue,” Rahul said.

“Is it not true that Defence Ministry officials objected to the new price of Rs 1,600 crore?” Rahul asked, accusing Modi of favouring his “dear friend” and “failed businessman” Anil Ambani.

Rahul accused Modi of bypassing procedures to award an offset contract to a private entity after agreeing to a three-fold hike in the price per aircraft and reducing the number of planes to be bought.

“Modi must answer whether the Defence Ministry objected to the new deal and whose decision inflated the price of aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore. And he must answer whether Airforce objected to this or not,” he said.