‘But it was your rule’:Sitharaman counters Congress on Rafale deal

Deepika S

New Delhi, Sep 18: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Tuesday that the Narendra Modi-led NDA government was getting the Rafale fighter jets at a rate nine per cent cheaper than what the UPA dispensation had agreed upon.

Sitharaman said that the Congress party is levelling baseless allegations on the government.

"Deal didn't happen during UPA. What also didn't happen during UPA was that b/w HAL and Dassault they couldn't agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn't go together. Doesn't that very clearly say who didn't go together with HAL, under which govt did that happen?, asked Sitharaman.

She said that if the Congress was so sure that it had negotiated the best deal, why did it put it on the back burner. "Why did it not go ahead with the deal?" she asked.

Responding to questions on the Congress's allegations against the government over the Rafale aircraft deal, the minister said, "We have responded saying your basic price and the basic price that I am getting at, when compared with all the escalation and other things, is 9 per cent cheaper," she said.

A K Antony Tuesday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of suppressing facts on the Rafale deal and asked why the government was shying away from setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe it.

He also accused the government of being "guilty" of "gravely compromising" national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Also Read Why Modi govt is shying away from JPC to probe into Rafale deal? asks AK Antony

Addressing a press conference, Antony rejected as "completely false" the charges of Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 put the "final nail in the coffin" when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal.

The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) both nationally and internationally.

He also asked if the price of the Rafale fighter jets were cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA and why it did not buy 126 aircraft instead of 36 from the French manufacturer.

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