Stepping up his attack on the government over the Rafale deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” on the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) ‘s capability to build the Rafale aircraft. He also said that her position as the defence minister of the country has become untenable and she should resign.
“The RM (Rafale Minister) tasked with defending corruption has been caught lying again. The former HAL Chief, T S Raju, has nailed her lie, that HAL didn’t have the capability to build the RAFALE. Her position is untenable & she must resign (sic),” Congress chief tweeted and tagged of a media report on the former HAL chief’s assertion.
He alleged that national security was compromised by bypassing the state-run HAL in favour of some businessman “friends” for offset contract in the Rafale deal. He also said that the government caused a loss of as much as Rs 41,000 crore to the exchequer.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.
Sitharaman had earlier said that it was former defence minister AK Antony’s unprecedented intervention that led to the deal being cancelled after the price negotiation committee had almost finalised the deal. The charge has been denied by Antony as false. Sitharaman had also accused Antony of not supporting HAL in getting the Rafale deal.
The Congress is leaving no stone unturned to make this a major poll issue ahead of Assembly elections in some key states later this year and the Lok Sabha polls in 2019.