- Congress alleges Rafale deal mired in corruption and crony capitalism
- Arun Jaitley said Congress "running away" from debate in parliament
- Mallikarjun Kharge said the party accepts the challenge
The Congress accepts the government's challenge for a debate on Rafale fighter jets in parliament, senior party leader Mallikarjun Kharge said after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's comment that the party was "running away" from a debate. Mr Kharge, who is also the Leader of Opposition in parliament, has asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to decide a time for the debate on January 2.
"Jaitley-ji has thrown a challenge ... we accept it... we are ready for a debate on January 2. Please decide a time," Mr Kharge said in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of parliament, before it was adjourned for the day.
The government has been insisting on a debate in parliament in response to the Congress demands for an investigation by a joint parliamentary committee into the deal. The party has repeatedly made the demand since the winter session started on December 11.
The call for a probe came days after a Supreme Court ruling that dismissed petitions alleging the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault. The party had accused the government of perjury after it asked the court for a "factual correction" in the judgment.
"There is no evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity," said the top court, adding that there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process behind the deal.
The Congress alleges that the deal to buy Rafale jets from Dassault was steeped in corruption and crony capitalism. Party chief Rahul Gandhi, who has led the attack on the BJP-led government over the deal, has alleged that the offset deal worth Rs. 30,000 crore was given to Reliance Defence, which has no experience in defence manufacturing. The state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was bypassed to give undue benefit to Mr Ambani's company, he has said.
On Monday, when they again made the demand, shouting slogans, Mr Jaitley challenged the principal opposition, saying, "If you have the courage, begin the debate immediately". Mr Kharge accepted.
"I am not saying no...why should I say no...In fact the House was prepared for a debate but something happened and you (Congress) started demanding JPC probe...you keep your challenges to yourself... don't challenge me. When the debate will take place, I will decide...you will decide," Sumitra Mahajan had remarked before adjourning the House for the day.
Earlier, Mr Kharge had again demanded that the government should disclose the price of the deal. "Why is the government not disclosing the prices even as the French President has said it can be disclosed," he said.
The government has not disclosed the price citing a secrecy clause in the deal. Mr Gandhi has claimed that former French President Francois Hollande told him that there was no such clause. The claim was refuted by the French government.
In an interview with a French website, Francois Hollande had said Reliance was picked after insistence by the Indian government. The company, the governments of the two countries, and Dassault denied the charge.
With inputs from agencies
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal