Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy today questioned, why Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government did not protect the interests of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in the Rafale deal, if the Congress, as accused by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, was responsible for the deal not going to the public sector company.
Speaking to ANI, Mr Kumaraswamy said: "Nirmala Sitharaman shifted the blame on Congress for the contract not going to HAL, then why this government takes this kind of decisions? They have all the powers, they could have given this order to HAL and protected the interests of HAL. Why didn't they do so?"
Ms Sitharaman had accused the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for not concluding the Rafale deal in time and in the process HAL, which is under the Defence ministry, was out of the multimillion deal.
She had also pointed out that Dassault, the company that makes Rafale, and HAL, which is under the Defence ministry, could not agree on several terms during their negotiations in the previous government. She had said that it was the UPA government's responsibility to create conducive atmosphere to help a pact between HAL and Dassault.
On September 28, Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of choosing the Reliance Defence over state-run HAL to benefit businessman Anil Ambani.
The Rafale controversy has heated up in past recent weeks, with the opposition targeting the BJP-led central government over irregularities in pricing in the deal.
The controversy took a new turn after former French President Francois Hollande stated on September 22 that Reliance Defence was nominated by the Indian government to partner with Dassault Aviation for the deal.
The deal for 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets was signed in September 2016 between former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart Jean Yves Le Drian following intense negotiations.
In January 2016 following the bilateral meeting between former French President Franois Hollande and Prime Minister Modi, the two sides had announced signing of Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA). The much-talked about Rafale deal was under negotiation during the UPA government's time too. However, the negotiations did not conclude.