NEW DELHI: After a heated debate in the Parliament, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a one-on-one debate over the Rafale fighter jet deal while accusing the PM of having indulged in corruption.“I would like to debate with the PM one-on-one on Rafale or any other aircraft. Just give me 20 minutes with him. Then you decide what is what. But the PM does not have the guts to sit in front of you (media). I come and face questions,” Rahul said at a press conference in the evening.
He was responding to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s allegations during an earlier debate in the Lok Sabha that the Congress chief did not know anything about combat aircraft. “The PM primarily changed the deal unilaterally. Narendra Modi can’t hide, though he can run from a Parliament debate,” Rahul said, adding that he was not against the jets but the purchase, in which corruption took place. “Rafale is a good aircraft, we are not questioning it,” he said.
Posing several questions for the PM, Rahul asked how the price per aircraft escalated over 300 times as compared to the earlier negotiations by the UPA government. He also asked approved it even as the Indian Air Force objected to a price hike and why was businessman Anil Ambani, who is under Rs 45,000 cr debt, was chosen over HAL for the offset contracts when the private company had never made an aircraft.
The Congress chief cited Jaitley’s statement in the Lok Sabha to point out how the minister himself revealed the price per aircraft.“Jaitley asked how Congress gets figure of Rs 1,670 crore per aircraft. This was mentioned by him when he said total deal was for Rs 58,000 cr deal. When you divide this figure by 36 you get this number,” Rahul said.
The Congress chief further said if Jaitley claimed the aircraft in NDA deal were cheaper, why did the centre reduce the number from 126 to 36. “Why not more aircraft when the air force needed them,” he said at the conference.Reiterating his demand for a JPC probe, Rahul said he Supreme Court never said no corruption had taken place. The SC said it doesn’t have jurisdiction to investigate the deal,” he added.
No use slinging mud on Sonia, Rahul: Sena
While claiming that the mudslinging between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the AgustaWestland case is a deliberate attempt to divert people’s attention from the real issues, the Shiv Sena on Wednesday said that the nation is unlikely to benefit from it. “Attempts to fix Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in the AgustaWestland case won’t mean that people would forget Rafale and other issues like inflation, demonetization, farmers’ suicides, Ram Mandir,” the Sena said in an editorial in its party mouthpiece Saamna.