THE CONGRESS may have decided not to project Rahul Gandhi as its prime ministerial candidate, sensing the discomfort among other Opposition parties. Rahul too does not want the issue to come in the way of building an alliance. But on Wednesday, he positioned himself as the prime challenger to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, daring him to a “one-on-one” debate on the Rafale deal or “any strategic issue”.
Addressing a press conference hours after the Congress released a taped conversation, where Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane purportedly quotes Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as saying that files on Rafale were in his bedroom, Rahul also indicated that the Congress could come out with more audio clips. Saying that the tape is “authentic”, he said, “there might be other tapes…there might be many other tapes of that nature doing the rounds…I don’t know.”
“The entire (Goa) cabinet heard what Parrikar said and essentially what Parrikar is doing is threatening the Prime Minister of India, blackmailing the Prime Minister of India because he has information about the Rafale deal. The question is what is in Parrikar’s bedroom, what all files are there and what is its impact on Narendra Modi. That is the main question,” said Rahul.
“I would very much like to debate with the Prime Minister one-on-one on Rafale, on anything about combat aircraft, on any strategic issue, I would like to discuss one-on-one with him. Just give me 20 minutes with the Prime Minister, debate one-on-one on Rafale, and then you decide what is what. But the Prime Minister does not have the guts… he does not have the guts to come and sit in front of you. And I am coming here… you can ask me any question… I come here once in seven-ten days… and you saw the Prime Minister’s interview yesterday,” he said.
Rahul, who spoke on the Rafale issue in the Lok Sabha earlier in the day, also mentioned that he has a pilot’s license. “The licence is not current. But I am a pilot,” he said.
He said while the government has said it will not disclose the pricing details of the Rafale deal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley revealed it in Parliament on Wednesday. “Jaitley said in his speech that the deal is for Rs 58,000 crore. You divide 58,000 by 36 (the number of aircraft). What is the answer — 1,600. So Jaitleyji, you gave 1,600 (crore) figure… This is not our number, it is your number,” he said.
Rahul said the names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and industrialist Anil Ambani would come up the “moment there is a JPC (probe).” He said if the Congress is voted to power, it would order a probe into the Rafale deal.
He said Modi did not “stand up” to defend the deal in Parliament. “The Defence Minister would not stand up. Prime Minister would not stand up…(they were) the decision makers… but Arun Jaitley is defending the Prime Minister and his actions… The country knows that Narendra Modi gave Rs 30,000 crore to his friends… Modi cannot hide… he can go home at the time of the debate and not come forward, but the truth cannot be hidden,” said Rahul.
BJP hits back: desperation, lies, misrepresentation
New Delhi: The BJP on Wednesday hit back at Congress president Rahul Gandhi over his press conference, saying that he spoke to mediapersons as he could not raise “any good point in Parliament”.
Senior BJP leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Gandhi’s press conference was all about his desperation, lies and misrepresentation. He could not make any good point in Parliament and was exposed completely for his complete lack of understanding of issues. To make up for that he held a press conference and exposed himself again.”
In a serious of tweets, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley wrote that “even a fool will not compare prices of a simple flyaway Aircraft with a weaponised jet”. “Even in the offer made to the UPA government there were two different prices, one of the flyaway aircraft and the offer of the weaponised aircraft,” the BJP leader tweeted.
“Compare two unequals and call it a ‘scam’,” Jaitley tweeted, asking, “How much does he know? When will he know?”—ENS