Rafale deal: Union minister Prakash Javadekar hits back at Rahul Gandhi’s ‘chor’ jibe

Mumbai: Amid a political slugfest over the Rafale fighter jet deal, Union minister Prakash Javadekar Tuesday hit out at Rahul Gandhi over his “chor” jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and wondered whether the Congress chief’s “behaviour” could be called “shameless”.

The minister was in the city to make a statement on the controversial deal. He said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government will go ahead with the purchase of fighter jets from France to strengthen the Indian Air Force (IAF). The HRD minister claimed the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation had stopped the Rafale deal midway for a review in 2012 as it wanted to “bring in” Robert Vadra’s close aide Sanjay Bhandari. Vadra is the son-in-law of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

“We also know cuss words, but we have no intention to use them for politics. Congress president Rahul Gandhi used very abusive words against the prime minister. What should we call his behaviour? A shameless one?” Javadekar said. “The language used by Rahul Gandhi does not follow any norms of decency, hence, we condemn the use of such language. No matter how many times you spread a lie, it will never become the truth,” he said. Rahul had on Monday charged that the country’s “chowkidar” Narendra Modi had snatched away money from the poor and handed it over to industrialist Anil Ambani.

He also demanded answers from the prime minister on several issues relating to the Rafale deal and asked him to clarify as to why former French president Francois Hollande allegedly called him a “thief”. Addressing reporters here, Javadekar said the Rafale deal was being opposed only by Pakistan and the Congress. “Pakistan feels India will become more powerful if we procure the fighter jets, whereas the Congress is afraid that the BJP’s power will grow manifold and that is why it is criticising the deal,” he said.

The Human Resource Development (HRD) minister  alleged that the then Congress government stopped the Rafale deal “which was in advanced stage in their own interest”. “We have found out that in 2012, the Congress-led UPA government stopped midway and ordered a review (of the deal) because they wanted to bring in Sanjay Bhandari, who is very close to Robert Vadra. Bhandari is now abroad,” he alleged. The senior BJP leader said the current dispensation signed the deal at a cost which was 20 per cent lower than the one proposed by the previous Congress government.

“The deal between the two countries (India and France) was already at an advanced stage during the Congress government,” Javadekar said. “All scamsters felt protected under the Congress-led UPA government. (Nirav) Modi, (Vijay) Mallya left India now because they are afraid that the BJP government will take action against them,” he said. The Union minister accused the Congress of levelling “false allegations” even during the tenure of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“There was no coffin scam,” Javadekar said, referring to the allegations of corruption in the purchase of coffins by the then BJP-led government after the 1999 Kargil war between India and Pakistan. “The deals during the erstwhile Congress rule were never completed without middlemen. But, there is no middleman in our tenure,” he asserted. On the demand of the Congress and some opposition parties for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal, Javadekar said the committee will be of no use in view of false allegations.

“The Congress has realised that it does not have any future in the forthcoming (general) elections and that is why it is trying to hatch some conspiracy to malign the image of the BJP,” he said. The Congress under Gandhi has launched an unrelenting tirade against the BJP government over the Rafale deal, alleging corruption and violation of rules by the prime minister. It has also accused the prime minister, finance minister and the defence minister of “lying on the issue”.

Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets after holding talks with then French president Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The controversy took a turn last week after a French media report quoted Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and France did not have a choice.





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