Government using armed forces to defend its decisions on Rafale deal: Congress

New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday accused the government of making the armed forces “pawn” in its political battle over the Rafale deal and said that it was not prepared to reveal the price at which the fighters jets have been purchased.

Congress Spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the party will not drag the services into the political arena after Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa asserted that the Rafale jets will power the Indian Air Force (IAF) to fight “grave threats” from Pakistan and China.

“It is most distressing, disgusting and deplorable that the government is putting forward our armed forces’ persons like this. We respect them, be it the soldiers, be it the chief. In the political arena, I do not want to drag them despite the worst provocation,” Singhvi said on Dhanoa’s remarks.

He said that it was not appropriate to put the Army, Navy or Air Force chief to defend yourself (government).

“I do not know where your 56 inch chest has gone that you are putting these people in front,” he said while taking a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Singhvi said that the Congress had made a straightforward political allegation on the deal in the last one year which the Modi government is unable to answer.

“I will deal with your Defence Minister, your Finance Minister, your Prime Minister. But I will not engage the service chief whom we respect. Do not make our service people pawns in this game,” he said.

Singhvi accused the Modi government of seeking to derail the issue.

“The rules of the game are changed and an attempt has been made to mislead. Who has ever said that Rafale is not a good aircraft? In one year have we said so? Is it our case?” he asked.

Referring to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s remarks that the fighter jet purchased by the NDA government from France was nine per cent cheaper than that negotiated by the then UPA government in its basic cost whereas its weaponised version was 20 per cent cheaper, Singhvi said that the government should spell out the figures it was referring to while putting out such calculations.

“Common sense tells me that nine per cent or 20 per cent is less from some figure. Why don’t you tell us that figure? A kindergarten student knows that 20 per cent or 9 per cent less has to have a figure from which it is less — that they will never tell. So, there is no answer to our question — it remains unanswered. The question is what is the price (of each Rafale jet)?”

“The question is — why is there no manufacturing in India? Why is there no value addition under the offset? What happened to ‘Make in India’ initiative? These things will never be answered,” he said.