Ahead of Rafale debate in LS, Rahul poses 5 questions to Sitharaman

New Delhi: With the BJP and Congress engaged in war-of-words over the Rafale fighter jets deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday laid out five questions to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Firing a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his absence from the Parliament during the debate on Rafale, Gandhi alleged that PM Modi facilitated the payment of Rs 30,000 crore to Reliance Group chairman Anil Ambani.

Further sharpening his attack, the Gandhi scion said, “When the Rafale issue came up, the Prime Minister, who is being accused in the matter, chose not to show up at the House. He chose to run away and refuses to step foot in Lok Sabha.”

Laying out the five questions, Gandhi asked who changed the pricing of Rafale aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore- the Air Force, the Prime Minister or the Defence Ministry?

He further said: “The Air Force wanted 126 aircraft, but a deal was finalised with 36 aircraft. Did the Air Force demand it? Also, if it was done, then whether national security constraints were considered or not?”

“Anil Ambani made Rs 36,000 crore from this deal. We want to know who decided to shut out HAL from the deal and bring in Ambani. French President Hollande has clearly stated that Prime Minister Modi said to him that the deal would be only possible if the contract was given to Reliance,” Gandhi added.

Lastly, the Congress president asked if the Defence Ministry had objected to any elements of the new deal with 36 aircraft.

“There should be some documents with them that should show that they oppose the deal. She should clearly state on this matter. If there are objections from the Defence Ministry, then we want to know on what basis the Prime Minister overruled those objections,” Gandhi further said.

He alleged that French aerospace major Dassault Aviation’s internal emails revealed that the Indian government had ordered the French government that the offset contract should only be given to Ambani.

Gandhi expressed hope that Sitharaman would answer to the issues raised by the Opposition with regard to the high-profile defence deal but raised doubts whether she would answer the questions or not.

“These are the five questions that are answers to why Anil Ambani was given Rs 30,000 crore. It is not PM Modi’s money or Ambani’s money. It is your money and this is the money of your future,” he said.

Earlier, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad reiterated the party’s stance of a joint parliamentary probe (JPC) in connection to the Rafale deal.

Slamming the BJP-led government, Azad said: “It’s a scam of thousands of crores and the country had to pay this amount. This money is of all the people who pay taxes. The taxpayers should worry about how the government loots their earnings of 1000s of crores. The government has tried to cover on this scam numerous times and especially the prime minister himself.”

He further said that the scam “is too big of a volcano that it will turn into like the Himalayas and the BJP-led government would get buried under it.”

“We have no expectations from any agencies because many of them have turned into rubber-like stamps. This government must be the first in the world who have fooled the Supreme Court too. They provide wrong affidavits in their own favour. I want the court to dismiss such a government who gives wrong affidavits. They have no right to stay,” the senior Congress leader asserted.

Strengthening the stand for a JPC, Azad said that it was adopted in various cases such as the Bofors scandal and 2G spectrum and that it is high time that the actual truth should be revealed.

The Rafale jet deal controversy has been on the boil over the last few months. The Congress and other opposition parties have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal for purchase of 36 fighter jets, which the ruling BJP has outrightly denied.