Under attack from the Opposition over the Rafale fighter jet purchase, the BJP on Thursday told party workers not to be defensive and to go on the offensive instead. It said that the charges of corruption against the government were baseless and malicious.
Speaking at the BJP’s state executive meeting in Mumbai, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said: “The BJP workers should not be defensive. You should go on the offensive. There is nothing wrong in the Rafale deal. The cost escalation mentioned is false. They have considered only bare plane structure, discounting the modifications complete with missile designs and other aspects.”
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “The Rafale deal was the first one where there was no middleman involved, unlike in other defence deals in the past under the Congress-NCP government. Therefore, the Congress, which is desperate to return to power, is coming out with false campaigns.”
Meanwhile, citing The Indian Express report on Thursday — that then Joint Secretary & Acquisition Manager (Air) in the Ministry of Defence, who was part of the Contract Negotiations Committee, had raised questions about the deal’s benchmark price nearly a month before the deal was signed between then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and his French counterpart in New Delhi in September 2016 — the Congress said the government had “sent on leave” the “whistleblower”, while it had rewarded a senior officer who overruled him.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi too reacted to the report, posting a poem in Hindi on his Twitter handle. He said the government had penalised the officer.
Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters, Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy said the officer had objected to the price of the aircraft and had pointed out that Eurofighter offered to supply an aircraft of the same kind at 20 per cent price discount.
Meanwhile, NCP president and former Union Defence Minister Sharad Pawar supported the Congress’s call for a JPC probe but said that the demand for the disclosure of technical specifications regarding the fighter jets was “inappropriate”.
He added that while people may not doubt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “personal integrity”, the manner in which “crucial information” regarding the Rafale deal was being “suppressed” has raised questions. He was speaking to Marathi news channel, News18 Lokmat.
“There are two questions. One regarding the technical specifications of the fighter jets, and the other on the cost of procurement. As a former Defence Minister, I feel that the Opposition’s demand for technical details is inappropriate. But I do not see a problem with the demand for full disclosure regarding the procurement cost. People have the right to know the price of the jets,” he said.