NEW DELHI: After Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched a blistering attack on the Narendra Modi government over alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal, Union Minister Arun Jaitley rejected demands for constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), saying the one on Bofors headed by Shankaranand had committed a Parliamentary fraud by concluding that there had not been kickbacks.
“The issues being raised on Rafale don’t concern policy-making or administrative decisions. They concern investigation. Supreme Court has gone through all details of procedures adopted and even looked into the pricing details to satisfy their conscience. The apex court has ruled that there’s no case for any probe in the matter,” Jaitely asserted, while taking part in the discussion on Rafale in the Lok Sabha.
Earlier, Rahul sought to play a purported tape having conversations of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Jaitely objected, telling Speaker Sumitra Mahajan that the tape wasn’t authenticated. The Congress president stuck to the stated lines on Rafale allegatios — as to why the government cut down on aircraft to be purchased from 126 to 36; agreed to buy the fighter jet for Rs 1,600 crore apiece when the UPA had been negotiating at Rs 526 crore; why a private entity which lacks expertise was favoured as an offset partner in place of public-sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).
A combative Jaitely charged that the Congress leadership with a track record of corruption in Bofors, National Herald, and AgustaWestland is inventing and manufacturing scams that don’t exist. The minister quoted a dialogue from a James Bond movie, saying, “If it happens once, it is happenstance; it happens twice it’s coincidence, and if thrice, then it’s a conspiracy,” to hit out at Rahul, whom he alleged was indulging in Kindergarten math in arriving at the price of the fighter jet.
Later, Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy claimed Jaitely’s memory was failing him and said the original James Bond dialogue was: “Thrice is enemy action”.NDA ally Shiv Sena struck a discordant note and sided with the Opposition ranks, while Biju Janata Dal (BJD) supported a JPC to probe the alleged irregularities.
Rahul stuck to his guns, challenging PM Modi for a one-on-one debate over the Rafale deal while accusing him of having indulged in corruption in the defence purchase.“I would very much like to debate with the PM one-on-one on Rafale but the PM does not have the guts to face you (media), while I do”, he said.“Narendra Modi can’t hide, though he can run from a parliament debate,” Rahul said, adding that he was not against Rafale jets, but the purchase in which corruption took place.