Facing a volley of questions on the Rafale row at an event here, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday turned the focus towards the Congress.
“Whenever you think of Congress and their first family, corruption comes to our mind… I wanted to tell in the Parliament that we do not have any connection or relation with AA (Anil Ambani), but Q (Ottavio Quattrocchi) is an uncle and RV (Robert Vadra) is brother-in-law, still…” she said.
Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian industrialist, is alleged to have been one of the middlemen in the Bofors deal inked by the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1986.
The Defence Minister made the comments at the event titled ‘India’s National Security and Importance of Rafale deal’ organised here by Bharatiya Vichar Manch and Delhi-based Foundation for Public Awareness and Policy.
A member in the audience said: “The CAG report shows that this government has done a good deal. But he (Congress president Rahul Gandhi) keeps on saying that Modi has helped Anil Ambani to get benefits in this (Rafale) deal. We would like to know more from you on this.”
In reply, the Defence Minister while explaining “offsets” in the defence procurement policy said, “The first Rafale will come only in September 2019 and so in the matter of offsets, they (Dassault Aviation) have not conveyed anything to us officially. Till the time they do not give us officially, how can we say whom they have tied up with for offset… Government can’t say anything on basis of media reports— I am not saying they (media) are wrong… I do not know where they (Congress) are getting their information from. The government does not officially have any record.”
One of the members in the audience, who did not identify himself, asked Sitharaman if she had any doubts regarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s conduct in the Rafale aircraft deal. In reply, the Defence Minister said “Not
She added, “I can also say this, that the person who was the defence minister before me, I have also talked to them and so mentioning — be it Arun Jaitleyji or Manohar Parikarji, nobody has any doubts on the Prime Minister regarding any issue related with the Defence ministry.”
A Class IX student Radhika wanted to know why Rahul Gandhi is shouting “thief” despite a Supreme Court ruling and if Rahul has forgotten his “Quattrocchi uncle.”
In reply, Sitharaman said, “You are asking the right question. Supreme Court has made a judgment, he still continues to ask questions. Whenever you think of Congress and their first family, corruption comes to our mind…”
Earlier, during her brief address to the audience, the Defence Minister said that such an event had been held in Delhi and will also be held in other cities like Pune in the coming days.
“Despite Arun Jaitley and I speaking threadbare on the issue in Parliament, we still feel that it is necessary to answer one or two question that the people might have on the Rafale deal,” she said while explaining to the audience her reasons for attending the event.