The Congress is only weakening the security forces by "slinging mud at the central government" on the Rafale fighter jet deal despite having nothing to back its allegations of corruption and nepotism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has claimed.
"People who level such allegations are only weakening the Army. But should I worry about the personal attacks being made against me or the fact that the country's needs still have to be met? I have decided that whatever the abuses hurled at me, whatever the allegations levelled against me, I will continue on the path of honesty and give primacy to the country's security," he told news agency ANI in an exclusive interview today.
PM Modi also vowed to stand by the army in this environment of doubt. "I won't leave our army jawans to their fate. Whatever be their requirement, I will expedite the procurement processes. I will do it despite the allegations levelled against me," he asserted.
The Prime Minister also explained away his silence on the Congress' claims of crony capitalism and alleged favouring of industrialist Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal by stating that they were not of a "personal" nature. "This is not a personal allegation against me but an allegation against my government. If there's any allegation against me personally, let them dig who gave what, when and where and to whom," he said.
PM Modi then went on to claim that he had elaborated on the issue in parliament as well as whichever public forum he could get. "The matter has been cleared even by the Supreme Court after scrutinising it threadbare. The French President has also spoken... The media should have the courage to ask (the Congress) for evidence on these allegations. Don't throw muck and run away.... As the Congress is unable to give any real evidence, it just keeps talking," he said.
He said there should be a debate on the need for middlemen in defence purchases as well as the logic behind creating controversies over defence deals. "Who is doing it, and what is the reason? Also, what is the need for middlemen in the defence deals? Can't defence deals be done without middlemen? My crime is that I am trying to push the Make In India campaign. My crime is ensuring that dealings outside the country end. I am trying to achieve technology transfer," he claimed, dismissing allegations that the Rafale aircraft deal contradicts the Make In India campaign.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accused PM Modi of ensuring that Mr Ambani's Reliance group is favoured in the Rafale deal. The allegation has been denied by the centre, aircraft manufacturer Dassault and the French government.
Although the Supreme Court has said that it found "nothing wrong" with the Rafale deal, the Congress continues to insist on a joint parliamentary committee probe into it. The Prime Minister also spoke on other subjects, such as demonetisation, the resignation of Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel, the Ram temple at Ayodhya and cross-border surgical strikes during the interview.
(With inputs from ANI)
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal.