Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today put up 15 questions for the Congress in a Facebook post accusing the party and its chief Rahul Gandhi of "peddling untruth" on the Rafale fighter jet deal. He also alleged that "Rahul Gandhi's misadventure" was seriously compromising national security.
The Congress has been attacking the Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government over the deal for 36 Rafale jets from France's Dassault Aviation, citing alleged wrongdoings from selection of a private firm and cost overruns to lack of transparency in releasing finer details of the deal.
"This (allegations on Rafale deal) is like a kindergarten or primary school debate. 'Well, I was paying 500 something and you've paid 1,600 something'. That's the argument being given; it shows how little understanding Rahul Gandhi has," Arun Jaitley told news agency ANI. "Every single word in the Congress's allegation is factually false," he said.
Mr Jaitley reminded Rahul Gandhi it was the government led by his party that first initiated the deal back in 2007. "Not only did Congress get a bad deal, they compromised national security by abandoning it due to policy paralysis," said the finance minister, adding he wants Rahul Gandhi to answer all the points he has raised.
The Rafale multirole jet was chosen in 2012 over rival offers from the US, Europe and Russia. India initially planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from the France's Dassault Aviation, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run plane-maker Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
PM Modi's government scrapped the UPA's plan in 2015 and announced it would buy 36 "ready-to-fly" Rafale jets instead of seeking a technology transfer from Dassault Aviation and making the aircraft in India.
"The Congress is known for scandals in defence deals... they also sat for decades without being able to sign any agreement to enhance India's fleet of aircraft... They were willing to buy 100 per cent foreign-made aircraft and never promote private manufacturing in India," said the finance minister who has actively supported the government's "Make-in-India" programme to boost manufacturing in India.
Mr Jaitley said the offset clause for the foreign vendor makes it mandatory for the vendor to partner with an Indian firm. "Let's be clear, this is a government-to-government arrangement. Offset has nothing to do with this contract... Under a policy devised by the UPA, every defence supplier has to undertake some offsets... Dassault can also enter into contracts with whomever they want," Arun Jaitley said.
The Congress, reacting to the finance minister's comments, pointed out that the defence procurement policy or DPP makes it clear that the offset vendor has to be a public sector undertaking, and not a private firm.
"For him to say offset is not part of contract is wrong. Defence procurement policy is very clear. Vendor has to notify how offset liability will be discharged. DPP says it has to be a defence PSU with experience in the sector, so only HAL had that," Congress parliamentarian Anand Sharma said.
Before the Rafale deal was finalised, global defence firms had contested fiercely to grab India's shopping cart for over a hundred fighter jets, and sent their planes to the Aero India air show in Bengaluru. The contenders were JSC Russian Aircraft Corporation's MiG-35, Swedish Saab Gripen and Lockheed Martin's F-16, which Pakistan also uses.
With inputs from ANI