Sitharaman dubs Rafale issue as perception battle

New Delhi: With the mudslinging over the Rafale fighter jets deal refusing to die down, Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday termed the controversial issue as a perception battle.

Vowing to fight the Rafale deal tussle, Sitharaman said, “This is a perception battle. We’ll go to places and state facts on record on Rafale. Congress designs to run a smear campaign against us at an international level. This is an attempt to malign our reputation.”
Terming the controversial deal as India’s “biggest Defence scam”, the Congress demanded the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) KV Chowdary to seize all documents and register an FIR into the alleged corruption.

After meeting the CVC and seeking an independent probe into the case earlier today, Congress leader Anand Sharma told reporters, “A delegation of Congress has met with Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), submitted a detailed memorandum on Rafale fighter jet purchase scam. It is the biggest scam in the acquisition history of this country.”

“This was the arbitrary decision of the Prime Minister of India who without any mandate from the Cabinet Committee on Security decided to do away with three important things of the original tender purchase of 126 planes and more importantly the approved price of Rs 526 crore that went up to Rs 1,670 crore. The government has been lying and hiding. Therefore, we have demanded the CVC to take cognizance, to seize all files and documents and register an FIR,” he added.

The meeting came days after a Congress delegation met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi and urged the apex auditor to prepare a report on the alleged irregularities in the deal and present it in Parliament.

The Rafale controversy took a new twist last week after former French president Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence’s name as the offset partner for Dassault Aviation.

The Congress has been accusing the Centre of irregularities in the high-profile Defence fighter jets contract, alleging that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

It has repeatedly asked the Prime Minister Modi-led government to reveal the price details of the aircraft and how the rate of each aircraft has shot up. However, the government has refused to share the details, citing a secrecy clause of a 2008 pact between India and France.