When Rahul Gandhi alleged in Lok Sabha on Friday that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lied to the nation on the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, immediately came a statement from France and a hard takedown from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. On Saturday, keeping up the attack, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Rahul Gandhi concocted his conversation with President Emmanuel Macron.
"Rahul Gandhi, by concocting a conversation with President Macron, has lowered his own credibility and seriously hurt the image of an Indian politician before the world at large," Arun Jaitley wrote in a blog on Saturday.
"One should never misquote a conversation with a Head of Government or a Head of State. You do it once, serious people will be reluctant to speak to you or speak in your presence," Mr Jaitley added.
Rahul Gandhi, speaking in parliament during the debate on the no-trust motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had contended that Emmanuel Macron had told him that no agreement signed by the two countries stopped India from disclosing the Rafale jet's pricing. Mr Gandhi had met President Macron during his March visit to the country.
The Congress claims that the price of the fighter jets is higher than what was finalised by the United Progressive Alliance government which had negotiated a deal for 126 aircrafts. Mr Gandhi alleged that the deal was sealed at a higher price at a loss to the taxman to favour "a businessman".
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who had initially agreed to give the details, had later backtracked, after officials told her that the price was "classified information".
After Rahul Gandhi's speech, the French foreign ministry put out a statement on the security pact but did not refer to the discussions between Mr Gandhi and President Macron during his visit this year.
The statement said there was a 2008 agreement on classified information "that could impact security and operational capabilities" of the defence equipment of India or France.
The French government's statement did not, however, spell out if the purchase price of the fighter jets was also classified information under this pact.
"Let him reject," Mr Gandhi said, asked about the rejoinder from France. "I was not alone. Dr Manmohan Singh and Anand Sharma were also present at the meeting," he told reporters on Friday.
Mr Jaitley on Saturday said Mr Gandhi now seeks to embarrass Dr Singh by insinuating that he "was a witness to the conversation being wholly unaware that his own Government had entered into the secrecy pact."
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