The Shiv Sena has no qualms about targeting the BJP on the Rafale fighter jet deal while remaining a part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) because no single party rules the political coalition, party leader Sanjay Raut said today. "We are the NDA. The NDA is not any single party's property," Mr Raut said, pointing out that the Shiv Sena had been a part of the political alliance long before any of the present crop of BJP politicians shot into prominence.
He told NDTV that there was no need for the Narendra Modi government to be wary of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the high-profile aircraft deal if it has done nothing wrong. "Rafale is a matter of the nation's security and treasury, and questioning the government is not a crime. The government belongs to the people, not to any one party," he said, clarifying that the Shiv Sena wants a "joint JPC probe" into the fighter jet deal and the AgustaWestland chopper scam.
The BJP has alleged financial wrongdoing in the chopper scam -- which relates to the intended purchase of luxury helicopters from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland through middlemen for Rs 3,600-crore -- during the UPA era. The Shiv Sena, however, claims that the Modi government is only raking up the issue with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
Mr Raut said it was unfair to target the Congress over some words allegedly uttered by alleged middleman Christian Michel, who was brought to the country from Dubai in connection with the AgustaWestland case last year, without considering former French President Francois Hollande's statement that Anil Ambani's Reliance Industries was chosen for the Rafale deal in keeping with a condition laid down by the Indian government.
Addressing a rally at Pandharpur in Solapur district recently, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray had cited the story of a pest-infested lime tree to echo the Congress' oft-repeated accusation against PM Modi that the watchman tasked with protecting the country's riches had turned into a thief. Mr Raut, in his interaction with NDTV, claimed that his party chief made no such claim.
"Uddhavji only said at the rally that the BJP should agree to the JPC probe if it wants to disprove the opposition's allegation of financial discrepancies in the Rafale deal. Nobody will be able to point fingers at them once that's done," said Mr Raut. He also rejected the suggestion that Mr Thackeray was just resorting to pressure tactics in order to garner more seats. "Our alliance with the BJP broke in 2014. We may still be in the government, but that doesn't mean that the tie-up still holds. Even at the party's last national executive, we clearly said that we are not in alliance with the BJP," he said.
The Congress is demanding a JPC probe into the multi-crore Rafale deal with French firm Dassault Aviation, alleging corruption and crony capitalism. It also alleges that state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was ignored in favour of Reliance Defence for an offset deal, and claims that the price tag on the agreement has been highly inflated.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal