New Delhi: Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has alleged that the Opposition is trying to malign the Narendra Modi government by presenting fabricated facts regarding the India-France Rafale fighter jet deal.
The Defence Minister said this while responding to the Opposition’s charge that ”the Rafale deal was a case of monumental criminal misconduct by the NDA government and the scam involving it is much bigger than the Bofors scandal.”
The charges were made by former Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Wednesday. The two also demanded a time-bound probe into the Rafale deal by national auditor CAG.
Sinha and Shourie, while addressing a press conference along with lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, had raised a number of questions over the Rs 58,000 crore deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The trio, known as strong critics of the NDA government, also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of single-handedly changing the parameters of the deal and that there was a gross violation of mandatory procedures in finalising the contract. The entire deal was a “textbook case of criminal misconduct, of misuse of public office and of enriching parties at the expense of the national interest and national security”, they alleged, adding there was an “effort” by the government to “conceal” facts.
The Defence Minister took to Twitter to refute the Opposition’s charge and said that proper Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) was followed while signing the deal for the “benefit of the nation”.
”The Opposition is trying to malign the ruling government by repeating fabricated facts about the deal, signed between India and France in 2016,” Sitharaman said in one of her tweets.
“All allegations being levelled in various press conferences are already answered on the floor of the Parliament. A recent attempt, in the House, to malign the government through baseless charges collapsed. Today`s was yet another attempt at repeating fabricated facts,” Sitharaman said.
The Defence Minister continued by saying, “The 2016 IGA has followed the due process and has been done to benefit the nation. Repeating these allegations ad nauseum is only an attempt to malign the government,” she added.
Endorsing Sitharaman on the issue, Union Minister Arun Jaitley too attacked the Opposition for making baseless charges against the Centre in connection with the Rafale deal.
”I have seen today another attempt at maligning the Government by spreading falsehood and paddling fabricated facts regarding the 2016 Inter-Governmental Agreement for the procurement of Rafale fighter aircraft. It is even more reprehensible that this fresh attempt to tarnish the image of the Government should come less than two weeks after the miserable failure of a similar effort in the Parliament,” Jaitley wrote in a Facebook post titled ”The Rafale Falsehood Repeated.”
”There is not a grain of truth in the wild allegations repeated today nor anything substantiating in the purported facts and voluminous documents marshalled to corroborate the baseless accusations.
The unsubstantiated allegations against the Government constitute nothing but reprocessed lies by forces increasingly desperate to prove their relevance. The Government had already responded effectively to each and every distortion and misinformation on the issue,” he added.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government signed the deal with France-based Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 Rafale jets in 2016.
The Congress-led Opposition has time and again cornered the Central Government over the defence pact alleging irregularities in it.
It has multiple times demanded the government to disclose the price of the jets. On Tuesday, the Congress also demanded the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the deal.