Press Trust of IndiaNew Delhi
The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of misleading Parliament and the country on the Rafale pricing issue, saying there is no clause in the 2008 pact between India and France that prevents the government from divulging price details of the aircraft.
The Congress fielded its senior leaders, former defence minister A K Antony, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala, who issued a joint statement claiming the prime minister and the defence minister had sought to "lie" on the floor of Parliament.
The three leaders, who addressed a press conference, also accused Modi and Sitharaman of "deluding and misleading" the people of India.
Former defence minister Antony said the government's claim that a secrecy clause in the pact was forcing it to not reveal price details of the deal was "totally wrong".
They have to reveal price details of each aircraft, said Antony, adding that the more they are trying to hide, the more suspicion there is about the deal.
He also said the government cannot hide the price details of the Rafale jets as the deal has to be scrutinised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well as Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
"They must reveal the price details of the aircraft and they must also tell us why a company was selected as offset partner who has no experience manufacturing aircraft," said Antony, alleging the private player has benefited by crores.
Addressing the joint press conference, his colleague Anand Sharma said the government owes Parliament an explanation on why Modi and Sitharaman "misled" the nation on the price issue.
"The French government had no objection in revealing the price of the Rafale aircraft. This was conveyed by the French president to Rahul Gandhi during a meeting in which I was present along with the former prime minister," he said.
Surjewala echoed him said the prime minister and the defence minister misled Parliament on the issue and it is clearly a matter of breach of privilege.
Asked if the Congress would give a notice of privilege motion against the prime minister and defence minister, he said, "The issue pertains to the Lok Sabha and the leader of the Congress parliamentary party will take a decision on the issue soon."
In their statement, the three leaders said revealing the "commercial cost" of Rafale aircrafts will neither violate any "secrecy agreement" with the French government, nor disclose any "classified or protected information".
According to the Congress leaders, the prime minister "sought to hide behind a cloak of pseudo-nationalism in the Rafale deal" during the debate on the 'no-confidence motion' against the government in Parliament on July 20.
The truth, however, is that the "Modi Government is unforgivably guilty of compromising national interest and national security in the Rafale deal", they said.
"Shoddy cover-up, self-defeating assertions and deliberate lies are being dished out to divert, dupe and deceive. Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer stand exposed as government refuses to state the truth," the statement said.
It said new revelations in the Rafale deal "nail the doublespeak, lies and hypocrisy of the Modi government".
The Congress leaders claimed the commercial cost of the Rafale jets can be revealed in the Indo-French confidentiality agreement of 2008 and the scope of the agreement only extends to tactical and technical details of weaponry relating to the capability.