Defence Secy ’15 noting flagged parallel talks by PMO on Rafale, Govt says flogging dead horse

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New Delhi | Published: February 9, 2019 5:34:21 AM

With the spotlight returning to the Rafale deal ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and rocking proceedings in the House, the government hit back. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attacked the Congress: “They are flogging a dead horse... when periodically, PMO enquires about the progress of any work cannot be construed as interference.”

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Less than two months after the Supreme Court dismissed four petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into alleged irregularities in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France, a political firestorm erupted Friday after Congress president Rahul Gandhi, citing a report in The Hindu, said the Ministry of Defence had objected to “parallel discussions” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office with Paris since it “weakened the negotiating position” of the Ministry and the Indian negotiating team.

With the spotlight returning to the Rafale deal ahead of the Lok Sabha elections and rocking proceedings in the House, the government hit back. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman attacked the Congress: “They are flogging a dead horse… when periodically, PMO enquires about the progress of any work cannot be construed as interference.”

Addressing a press conference in the morning, Rahul Gandhi said he was also addressing members of the armed forces: “We have been saying that there should be a JPC, there should be an inquiry. Now it is crystal clear… it is open-and-shut that the Defence Ministry itself is saying that the Prime Minister is conducting parallel negotiations. (Former French President Francois) Hollande (had) said Narendra Modi came to me and he told me that HAL should be removed and Anil Ambani should be given the contract.

The Defence Ministry has proved it. That what Hollande had said was the truth and Narendra Modi is guilty in the Rafale matter.”

Gandhi alleged that the government lied to the Supreme Court. “If Supreme Court had this paper work, you think the Supreme Court would have given the judgment that they gave. This was withheld from the Supreme Court… So that entire judgment is also in question,” he said.

READ ALSO | Media report confirms Prime Minister’s Office was interfering in Rafale deal: Arun Shourie

Asked about the Prime Minister referring to Congress attacks on him as “ulta chor chowkidar ko daante”, Gandhi said: “He is talking about himself. He has got a dual personality. What is that? Does that mean he has got two personalities — chor and chowkidar. Is that what he is saying… And he talks to himself at night, one day he becomes the chowkidar and one day he becomes the chor. Schizophrenia? Is that what is happening?”

To a query on the Enforcement Directorate investigation against his brother-in-law Robert Vadra, he said: “You can take action against whosoever you want… You are in the government… You do whatever inquiry against (former Finance Minister P) Chidambaram you want. He will face any inquiry. You do inquiry against anybody you want, anybody in the Congress party. No problem… but please do inquiry on this… you enforce the law on Robert Vadra and Chidambaram and all others… But you give a reply on the Rafale matter also.”

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