Don't join Rafale debate: PC to armed forces chiefs

Don't join Rafale debate: PC to armed forces chiefs

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram addresses a press conference at KPCC office, in Bengaluru, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Friday said chiefs of the Indian armed forces should “stay out” of the Rafale deal debate.

This comes a day after another veteran Congress leader M Veerappa Moily accused Indian Air Force chief BS Dhanoa of “lying” for calling the Rafale deal “a game changer” and hailing the Supreme Court verdict on the matter as a “very fine judgement.”

Chidambaram, a former Union minister, was in Bengaluru as part of the Congress’ news conference blitz to mount pressure on the Narendra Modi administration on the Rafale deal issue.

“Nobody is accusing the air chief,” Chidambaram told reporters when asked about Moily accusing Dhanoa of lying. “I respectfully request the chiefs of the armed forces to stay out of this debate. We’re not saying that Rafale is a bad aircraft. But the air chief should be asking, why is the government only 36 aircraft when the requirement is 126,” he added.

The Congress has raised its pitch for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to examine the Rafale deal. “If the present Parliament doesn’t allow a JPC, the next Parliament certainly will,” he said, alluding to a Congress victory in the Lok Sabha polls next year.

The Rafale deal will be a “live issue” in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls, Chidambaram pointed out. “The government claims it has negotiated a cheaper deal. If so, why are they procuring only 36 aircraft for ₹60,000 crore and not 126 aircraft for the same amount the UPA had negotiated,” he asked.

He also clarified that the Congress had nothing to do with the public interest litigations filed before the Apex court. “We’ve always maintained that the Rafale deal isn’t something for the Supreme Court to look into. We’ve been asking for a special investigation team (SIT) or JPC,” he said.

Reacting to BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav’s statement that the Centre was ready for a debate in Parliament instead of confining it to the JPC, Chidambaram said: “The Rafale issue has already had a discussion in Parliament, at the end of which the Opposition demanded a JPC. Why discuss this again in Parliament?”