The deal for buying 36 Rafale jets was signed in 2016. (Representational)
Senior Congress leader Manish Tewari Sunday accused the Union government of creating a “smokescreen” around the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.
Mr Tewari hurled the allegation hours after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley ruled out scrapping of the Rafale deal, saying the jet fighters are needed by the defence forces and that even former French President Francois Hollande has subsequently contradicted his purported initial statement on the deal.
Reacting to Mr Jaitely’s statements on television, Mr Tewari said “If at all, anybody needs to answer on Rafale transactions, it is Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi or former Defence Minister Manohar Parikkar or current Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) who is seized of the issue.”
“But they are trying to create a smokescreen and cloud the issue,” said Mr Tewari, also a former Union minister .
He also said the government needs to explain how the price of aircraft went up “from Rs 590-odd crore to Rs 1,690 crore”.
“Then there is the issue of offset (partner), where Hollande has clearly and unequivocally come out and said they did not have a choice so far as offset partner is concerned and that this was a diktat from the Government of India. So, on these issues there has to be a clarification,” Mr Tewari said.
Speaking in the wake of the controversy arising out of former French president’s purported statement that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambni-led Reliance Defence as the offset partner for Dassault Aviation and France did not have a choice in it, Mr Jaitley said Hollande has subsequently contradicted his initial statement on the deal.
Both the French government and Dassault, besides the Anil Ambani- led Reliance Defence, have denied the Hollande’s initial statement.
Mr Hollande was the French president when the deal for buying 36 Rafale jets was signed in 2016.
Mr Tewari alleged the contract from Indian side was “in violation of all established norms, procedures and conventions which have been laid down for big ticket defence acquisition”.
Attacking Mr Jaitley, Mr Tewari said, “The minister by the standards of his usually very stretched logic has ended up saying something on Sunday morning, which is nothing less than bizarre.”
“He has stated that there is collusion between the two opposition leaders in France and in India, Hollande and Rahul Gandhi. Nothing will be farther from the truth and the statement is absolutely laughable,” he said.
Alleging a “cover up” in the case, Mr Tewari said “it is high time Prime Minister and his various ministers come clean and tell the nation as to what exactly are the facts of this particular ) transaction.”
He reiterated that a joint parliamentary committee must be set up to probe into the Rafale affair “so that the truth can come out in its entirety.”
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