‘Flogging a dead horse,’ Nirmala Sitharaman tells Lok Sabha on Rafale

Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman speaks to the media persons during the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament, in New Delhi, Friday (PTI)

Hours after Rahul Gandhi attacked PMO for "parallel negotiations" in Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the charges and said the Congress was "flogging a dead horse."

In her address in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman rubbished The Hindu report that stated Defence Ministry’s objections to the "parallel negotiations" carried out by the PMO in the Rafale defence deal. "They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference," Sitharaman told Lok Sabha.

Official documents available to The Hindu have revealed that the Defence Ministry protested that the position taken by the PMO was "contradictory to the stand taken by MoD and the negotiating team."

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Referring to the report, Sitharaman accused the newspaper of "not carrying Defence Minister’s reply" to the note. She added that the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had replied to the letter asking the official to remain "calm" as everything was "alright". "If a newspaper publishes a noting then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister's reply as well," she said.

Launching an attack at the Congress Sitharaman alleged that UPA chairperson and former Congress president Sonia Gandhi used to run the PMO as the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi chief. "Was that not interference?" she asked.

Earlier this morning Congress chief Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of a JPC probe in the deal. "You can investigate any of our members. Launch a probe against Robert Vadra, P Chidambaram or anyone in the party. But investigate Rafale deal," he told at a press briefing in New Delhi.

National Conference leader and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, quoted the media report and said: "I’d like to see how this one is explained by the talking heads aligned to the BJP. @PMOIndia ‘weakened the negotiating position of the Ministry of Defence & the Indian Negotiating Team’ as per this note in a MOD file that went up the Defence Minister."