The Congress today moved a breach of privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in Lok Sabha. They claim that the prime minister and defence minister have "misled parliament" on the Rafale deal, and its secrecy clause.
Mallikarjun Kharge, the leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha, moved the breach of privilege motion against PM Modi, while Congress leader Jyotiradtiya Scindia submitted the notice against Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
While making his speech in Lok Sabha during the no-confidence motion against the government last Friday, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had claimed that there was "no such (secrecy) clause" with respect to the Rafale deal between France and India. He had claimed that French President Emmanuel Macron himself told Mr Gandhi that such a clause didn't exist.
The French embassy in New Delhi was quick to clarify that the agreement signed in 2008 by then Defence Minister AK Antony did indeed have a confidentiality clause. This was later pointed out by Ms Sitharaman in her rebuttal to Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha.
The Congress had promised action after Friday's debate on the no-confidence motion against the government.
Contending that the government is paying a huge amount of money for the fighter jets to favour a businessman, the Congress has demanded a price break-up. The government, it is says, has brought 36 Rafale fighters at thrice the price negotiated by the UPA government for 126 aircraft.
The prime minister, the Congress' letter to Speaker Sumitra Mahajan contended, claimed the deal was fully transparent -- but the Defence Minister's action was contradictory. Nirmala Sitharaman has told parliament that the price cannot be revealed because of a secrecy clause and that statement was "totally wrong", the Congress said.
The 2008 agreement between France and India is regarding Defence cooperation and includes "acquisition, purchase and transfer of technology between the two nations" and the Prime Minister is "fully aware" of this, the Congress said. It was not specific to Rafale fighter jets and does not prohibit the disclosure of the purchase price, the letter read.
The statement from the French government in response to Friday's debate has "nowhere contradicted what was demanded in the House by the Opposition", which is a disclosure of the purchase price of Rafale jet fighters, the Congress said. The statement, the letter said, "had merely referred to the 2008 confidentiality agreement".
The Congress also said on two occasions, the junior defence minister had disclosed the approximate price of the jets - a move contradictory to the stand taken his boss and the Prime Minister.
"The Prime Minister's claim on transparency in the agreement is factually incorrect and untrue and deliberately made with the intention of misleading the House," the letter read.
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