Hyderabad: Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha and senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said the manner in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly sidestepped questions on the Rafale deal is “startling.”
‘The government has to answerable to the citizens of India through the Parliament. Similarly, whenever the government is blamed of any wrongdoing, either the ministers or the Prime Minister address them in the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. However, since the past one year, we questioned the government as well as the Prime Minister on the Rafale scam. This has, indeed, for the first time, happened in Independent India, that whenever our current Prime Minister was questioned on the scam by the Opposition, he never bothered to stand up and answer. No Prime Minister in India ever did such a thing,” Azad said at a press conference.
Making it clear that the Congress-led opposition parties will continue to mount pressure on the government to extract the answer, Azad stated, “We only have one option left and we are not alone in that. There are 17 other parties who are with us as well. We have to reach out to the citizens of India in every state, city and make them aware of it (the scam)”.
Azad further asserted that the then UPA government led by former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh decided to buy 126 Rafale Jets from France, as it felt that there was a grave threat from both Pakistan and China. As the deal was inked between both the countries, France decided to send 18 out of 126 warplanes in a fly-away condition, while the rest 108 were supposed to be made in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which could have increased chances of employability to engineers in India.
”There was even a deal that was signed between HAL and the French government on the same in 2014. We all expected Prime Minister Modi to get things done fast and start bringing the planes. However, when he visited France in 2015, he nullified the existing deal and decided to buy only 36 planes instead of 126. Even more startling was the cost of these planes. While each plane at our time would cost Rs 523 crores, the Modi government decided to purchase each plane for Rupees 1670 crores. It is a matter of great concern for almost 1.3 billion people of this country,” Azad added.
Alleging that the ruling government played foul with the security of the country, Azad said, “As of now, we are short of 90 jet fighters. Why has the security of this country has been compromised by this government? This deal was carried forward not through the defence ministry but by the Prime Minister on a personal capacity.”
The Congress has been continuously press conferences on the Rafale issue, raising several questions on the deal with France. However, the Centre has denied all the allegations.
The Centre, led by Prime Minister Modi, scrapped the UPA’s plan in 2015 and announced that it would buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale jets instead of seeking a technology transfer from France’s Dassault Aviation and making the aircraft in India.