Former Defence Minister and current Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who is suffering from pancreatic cancer, knows a “whole lot of things” about the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said on Saturday.
Asked to substantiate an allegation levelled by state Congress President Girish Chodankar that the BJP national leadership had not been able to replace the ailing Parrikar as CM because the latter knew “dirty secrets” about the Rafale deal, Surjewala said as the Defence Minister when the deal was being worked out, Parrikar “knows a whole lot of things”.
“He (Parrikar) had refused to endorse the completely conspiratorial decision to enrich Dassault Aviation at the cost of state exchequer,” he said, adding: “Now that the facts are out in the open, questions should be asked to Parrikar and Narendra Modi.”
The Congress has been demanding the resignation of Parrikar as the Chief Minister on account of his ill health. Chodankar has repeatedly claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s national President Amit Shah and PM Narendra Modi were unable to get Parrikar to resign, as the former Defence Minister knew several secrets linked to the Rafale deal.
The All India Congress Committee in-charge of Communications, who was in Goa to address a press conference, also alleged that Parrikar had on several occasions resisted the Prime Minister’s attempts to inflate the benchmark price for purchase of Rafale jets from France’s Dassault Aviation.
Surjewala said Parrikar, as well as the Defence Acquisition Council, which comprises the Defence Minister and the three service chiefs, had refused to endorse the increase in the benchmark price for the fighter aircraft from 5.2 billion euros to 9.2 billion euros, but Modi had powered through with the deal on his own.
“The file was sent to Parrikar. He refused to endorse the higher price of 8.2 billion euros. He took it to Defence Acquisition Council which was then headed by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and the three service chiefs. They also refused to endorse the increase of three billion euros,” he claimed.
“Finally, the file was sent, as it is, to the CCS (Cabinet Committee on Security) headed by PM. PM Modi there ensured that the benchmark price was increased by 3 billion euros or Rs 23,000 crore. Why did he do so against the advice of his own Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar?” Surjewala said.
Parrikar served as the Defence Minister from 2014-17.