With the Opposition targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and questioning the secrecy over details of the Rafale fighter deal with the French, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley mounted a counter-attack Thursday, accusing the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi of “seriously compromising India’s security” by insisting that the government disclose details of the deal.
During his reply to the discussion on the Union Budget in Lok Sabha, Jaitley said he had with him 15 responses from defence ministers of the previous UPA government who too had refused to share details of armament purchases.
Perusing one such response from Pranab Mukherjee in December 2005, Jaitley said Mukherjee had refused to give details of a contract, calling the information classified. “Kindly ask your party president to go to Pranab Mukherjee,” he told Congress members.
“My charge is they are seriously compromising India’s security,” Jaitley said. Break-up of armament purchase deals, he said, can divulge the kind of weapons that a country has and this is not in the “interest of the country”. Such information, he said, can let the “enemy” know about the type of weapons and capacity available with India.
The Congress, he said, was trying to manufacture controversies and scams since they had no other issue to pin down the government. “Modi has run a clean government for four years, so let us not manufacture an issue,” he told the House.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor interjected the Finance Minister, saying “you are accountable” to the House. He said even if the cost break-up of the Rafale cannot be divulged, at least the overall cost of the deal must be made public. When Jaitley asked him if that would satisfy the Congress president, Tharoor said it would.
“We are as much accountable to Parliament as UPA was,” Jaitley said. Rahul Gandhi, who was not in the House, walked in moments later. The Congress disrupted proceedings and asked the Speaker to let Gandhi make a statement since his name had been mentioned when he was absent.
The Congress president too asked the Speaker that he be allowed to speak. But he was not allowed to speak and Jaitley was told to continue with his reply. Members of the Congress then came to the well of the House, raising slogans to try and prevent Jaitley from speaking further. The House was adjourned after Jaitley concluded his reply.
Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter: “Q. Why did the Raksha Mantri change her stance from: I will reveal the price of the RAFALE planes in Nov 2017 to the price is a state secret in Feb 2018 A. Corruption B. To protect Modiji C. To protect Modiji’s friend D. All of above #TheGreatRafaleMystery.”
On Tuesday too, his tweet had mocked the secrecy over the deal: “Top Secret (Not for Distribution) RM says the price negotiated for each RAFALE jet by the PM and his “reliable” buddy is a state secret. Action Points 1. Informing Parliament about the price is a national security threat 2. Brand all who ask, Anti National #TheGreatRafaleMystery.”
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had said there was something “fishy” about the deal which is why the government was unwilling to share details with Parliament.