NEW DELHi: Firing a fresh salvo against the Modi government over the Rafale deal, the Congress on Thursday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "lying" again" about the number of the France-built jets and demanded her and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to submit to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.
"Defence Minister is caught lying again on the number of fighter aircraft required by Indian Air Force (IAF)," Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala told the media. "Her claim that IAF does not have the infrastructure like parking place, maintenance facility to fly 126 Fighter aircraft is preposterous and goes against the grain of national security requirements," he said.
He said Modi's decision to "arbitrarily" reduce requirement of 126 fighter aircraft to 36 was "unexplainable".
His remarks were in reference to Sitharaman's interview to a national daily wherein she has said that the "government chose to procure only 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France in 2015, instead of the 126 being negotiated by the previous government, as infrastructure and other technical requirements of the IAF do not allow greater induction".
Dismissing Sitharaman's argument as "obnoxious" the Congress leader asked: "Can the government and IAF not create parking space/maintenance facility in 6-8 years period during which the aircraft will be delivered?
"Can creation of parking space/maintenance facility be a ground for compromising air superiority and national security?"
Surjewala also held Sitharaman "guilty" of not disclosing the fact that mandatory 'Fast Track Procedure' for affecting 'emergency purchase' was never followed by Modi at the time of announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale on 10th April, 2015".
"She has also failed to point out that no such 'emergency purchase' was approved either by the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar or Cabinet Committee on Security. How does she now explain the fact that despite the 'emergency purchase' in April 2015, aircraft will not be delivered up to the year 2022 and that also without 'India specific enhancements'," said the Congress leader.
He also indicted Sitharaman of "lying on the non-disclosure of price of Rafale" which she had agreed to publicly disclose in a press conference on Nov 17 2017.
"Let the Prime Minister and Defence Minister own accountability and submit to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe instead of lying to the nation," added Surjewala.