NEW DELHI: Stepping up its attack on PM Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the Congress on Tuesday moved a breach of privilege motions against the two leaders for misleading the Lok Sabha on the price of controversial Rafale jet deal.
The motion, moved by Congress leader in the house Mallikarjun Kharge, is supported by other members M Veerappa Moily, KV Thomas and Jyotiraditya Scindia and Rajeev Satav. The deal, redone in 2015 has become a major flashpoint between Modi and the Congress, which has been using it to target the PM.
The opposition party has alleged a scam in the deal saying the price per aircraft went up threefold from Rs 500 crore during UPA to Rs 1600 crore. Also, technology transfer to public owned HAL in the UPA deal was replaced by a joint venture between the makers Dassault and private sector Reliance under the Modi government.
The privilege motion refers to PM's speech on July 20 during the no-confidence motion when he "asserted that the demand for revealing the purchase price of Rafale jets was against the interest of the nation and had to be contradicted by both the Indian and the French governments."
It also questions the PM's claims of transparency in the deal, saying Modi made a factually incorrect statement. On the same day, Rahul Gandhi had referred to his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron who reportedly was okay with the price of the jets being made public.
He also blamed Sitharaman for 'lieing' when she said the price was covered under a secrecy clause. Sitharaman hit back saying the secrecy clause was signed by the UPA in 2008 but the Congress fielded then defence minister AK Antony to point out that it related to technology and not commercial cost.
Picking holes in the government argument, the Congress cited a reply given in the house by the minister of state for defence on November 18, 2016, pegging the price of one Rafale jet at Rs 670 crore. The opposition also cited the 2016 annual report of Dassault which mentioned the price details of the aircraft sold to India. The fate of the Congress' motion will now be decided by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who may accept or reject it.