Picking up from where he had left in the Lok Sabha, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was blackmailing Prime Minister Modi on the Rafale deal, referring to a tape containing purported conversation of a Goa minister on the issue.
“The tape clearly shows Parrikar has Rafale files in his house. There might be other tapes of this nature. The entire Cabinet heard what Parrikar said. He is blackmailing the PM with the information he has,” the Congress chief said at a press conference.
In the tape, released by Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, Goa minister Vishwajit Rane can be purportedly heard saying that during a Goa Cabinet meeting last week, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar stated that he had an entire file and all documents relating to the Rafale deal lying in his bedroom.
The BJP has said that the tape was manufactured by the Congress. Parrikar said the audio tape was “doctored” and it was a desperate attempt by the Congress to fabricate facts.
Challenging the PM to a one-on-one debate on the Rafale deal for 20 minutes, Gandhi said Modi does not have the guts to face him. He said if the Congress came to power, its priority would be to investigate the Rafale deal. “Once there is a JPC probe, the truth will come out. Two people’s names will come up — Anil Ambani and Narendra Modi. It will be clear PM helped his friend,” Gandhi said.
Picking holes on the pricing of the 36 aircraft, Gandhi sought to know why the cost escalated from Rs 526 crore per jet, as negotiated during the UPA regime, to Rs 1,600 crore. “They keep asking where does Congress get the Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft figure. Arun Jaitley in his speech in Parliament had said the deal is Rs 58,000 crore. So divide this by 36, you get Rs 1,600 crore,” Gandhi said.
“The cost was changed from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore. Why was the cost inflated? Did the Air Force object to it? The then Defence Minister had said publicly he had no idea about the new deal. And in a Cabinet meeting, he says he has all files,” the Congress chief charged.