Raking up storm over the Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday said if his party comes to power in 2019, a criminal investigation will be launched into the matter and those found guilty will be punished. Speaking to the media outside Parliament ahead of the government's reply in Lok Sabha over the issue, he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of running away from the debate and posed a series of questions to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
"Let me tell you that if we come to power in 2019, then there will be (an) investigation (into the Rafale deal). There will be a criminal investigation and the people responsible will be punished," Gandhi told reporters. He added that the Supreme Court had said in its judgement that inquiring into the Rafale deal is not in its jurisdiction, but nowhere did it say that an inquiry should not be held.
"We and the entire opposition want that when the defence minister speaks on the prime minister's behalf, the questions raised by us should be answered," the Congress chief said. Gandhi said his questions were what the youngsters were asking Modi.
"Who decided to raise the price of the aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore? Whose decision was this? Was this an air force decision, was it the defence ministry's decision or was it the prime minister's decision? There has to be a clear-cut answer, no confusion....," he said.
Gandhi also questioned the decision to reduce the number of aircraft to be bought from 126 to 36. "Who took this decision and were national security concerns considered when this decision was taken?" he asked.
The Congress chief also asked if the Air Force had sought the reduction in the number of aircraft. Gandhi asked if the defence ministry had objected to any element of the new deal. "Did they question this deal? Are there documents with the defence ministry that show that they opposed this deal? She (Nirmala Sitharaman) should clearly state (that) no, there are no documents in the defence ministry that clearly state that the defence ministry was against the deal. That is the statement that what we want to hear from her," he said.
"If there were objections or file notings with objections of the defence ministry, then we want to know that on what basis did the prime minister overrule those objections," he said. Gandhi also questioned the decision to give the offset contract to Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence.
"Who gave the contract to Anil Ambani? French president Francois Hollande said that Prime Minister Modi and Dassault Aviation's internal emails state that the government of India and the prime minister of India asked for giving the contract to Anil Ambani," he said.
"The president of France has clearly stated that Narendra Modi made himself very clear that the deal was only possible if Anil Ambani got the contract. We would like the defence minister to clearly state that no, the prime minister did not push HAL out and the defence minister pushed HAL out," he added.
The "government simply refuses to answer the fundamental questions", Gandhi alleged. "I can already tell you that she will not be able to answer these questions. I hope she can answer these questions because I would be very happy if she can clearly state the answer to these questions. But, I have my doubts," he said.
"The prime minister, who is being accused in this matter, chose not to show up in the House, chose to run away from the House and he refused to put his foot in the Lok Sabha," he added. The Congress chief also attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Gandhi said the minister should answer the Congress's questions instead of abusing him and asked if it was wrong to question why Rs 1,600 crore is being paid for an aircraft worth Rs 526.
"Arun Jaitley should stop abusing me and answer the questions instead. You answer the questions raised by me first and then abuse me as much as you want. he likes to abuse me...the fundamental question here is there should be a JPC," he said.
Addressing the country's youth, he said this is not Narendra Modi's money or Anil Ambani's money, "this is your money, this is the money of your future". Asked about the narrative for 2019 elections, Gandhi said, "It is jobs for Indians. The second narrative is destruction of the economy by Narendra Modi and providing education and healthcare to all people. The last narrative is the immense corruption by Mr Modi and stealing of Rs 30,000 crore and giving it to his friend Mr Anil Ambani. That is the narrative."
(With inputs from agencies)