Sunday, November 19, 2017

Rahul keeps Rafale pot boiling

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi and the Congress are not letting the Rafale controversy dip under the political radar.

If Rahul kept the pressure up on the government by asking defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman specific questions, the Congress took a swipe at alleged " punjpati dost (capitalist friends)" of the government for threatening legal action.

The Congress vice-president claimed that Sitharaman was being prevented by her "boss" from revealing the truth about the Rafale fighter deal, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi a second time in three days on the subject.

On Thursday, the Congress vice-president had accused Modi of recasting the deal to help a particular businessman. On Friday, Sitharaman had dismissed the charges as "shameful" without answering specific questions.

Rahul, keen to keep the controversy boiling in the run-up to the Gujarat polls, tweeted on Saturday: "Dear RM (Raksha Mantri, that is, defence minister), what is shameful is your boss silencing you."

He added: "Please tell us: 1. Final price of each Rafale jet? 2. Did PM take CCS (cabinet committee on security) permission before announcing purchase in Paris? 3. Why PM bypassed experienced HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) & gave the deal to AA rated businessman with no defence experience?"

Sitharaman, asked about the price of the French aircraft at Friday's news conference, had merely said: "The price we have obtained is far less (than that negotiated by the UPA)."

Pressed, she had said: "We will give you the figures that you want."

Soon afterwards, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had suggested that Sitharaman was "hiding the purchase price".
He had asked whether it was true that the UPA had negotiated a $80.95 million (Rs 526.1 crore) price per aircraft while the Modi government had agreed to a price of $241.66 million (Rs 1,570.8 crore).
19/11/17 Sanjay K. Jha/Telegraph