Hours after the Supreme Court dismissed all petitions seeking an investigation into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France, the government and the BJP rejected the Opposition demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the deal but said the issue could be discussed in Parliament. For the BJP, coming days after its electoral defeat in three states, the judgment is a political booster shot giving a clean chit to the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under attack from the Congress-led Opposition.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and BJP president Amit Shah tore into the Congress for creating a controversy over the aircraft deal and sought an apology from Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
“Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the people of India and to the armed forces. He should also tell people what was his source of information for the charges he raised,” Shah said at a press conference at the party headquarters.
“The judgement is a slap on such politics of lies and on the face of those who were spreading lies… Truth always triumphs. The court’s judgment on the Rafale deal exposes the campaign of misinformation spearheaded by the Congress president for political gains,” he said.
Addressing a separate press conference with Sitharaman, Jaitley said the “disruptors have lost and they have lost on all counts”. He said there is always a “fundamental difference between truth and falsehood”.
He said: “Truth always holds together, it explains everything. Falsehood is bound to fall apart. Indeed it has. Falsehood also has a very short life. In this case, it was a few months. And falsehood always lowers the credibility of its creator. The Rafale issue has each of these features.”
Somebody, he said, must answer that after shortlisting the quality and price of the aircraft in 2012, “why was it virtually stopped, if not abandoned” and “why was national security compromised, why were the needs of the Air Force compromised?”
To a question on the Congress demand for a JPC probe into the deal, Jaitley said only a judicial body can carry out such an investigation as past experience had shown JPCs getting divided on party lines. The Supreme Court verdict, he said, was conclusive and left no scope for any doubt over the deal.
Asked whether the campaign by Gandhi dented the BJP’s image, Shah said: “More than the loss or gains of the BJP, it has damaged the morale of the armed forces, which is not good for the country’s security.”
He said the Opposition, which has been protesting in the ongoing winter session seeking a JPC probe, should be ready for a discussion first. “JPC is formed after a debate in Parliament. We are ready for a discussion on Rafale deal, I am challenging the Congress leaders from here to have a discussion with all the materials. We are ready to give as much as time they want… Why are they running away from a debate? People will come to know the truth,” he said.
Taking a swipe at Opposition efforts to unite against the BJP, Shah said all “thieves” have joined hands in dubbing the ‘chowkidar’ (watchman) — a reference to Modi — a thief. But the court verdict, he said, has made it clear that they are scared of the ‘chowkidar’.
“The people of this country are not going to believe it… People of this country have not doubted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s integrity even for a moment… Sooraj ke saamne, jitni bhi mitti uchhalo, keechad uchhalo, swayam par hi girta hai, sooraj ka tej kabhi kam nahin hota hai (no matter how much dirt you hurl at the sun, it will fall on you, the sun’s intensity will never dim),” he said.