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Last Updated Tuesday March 20 2018 11:15 PM IST

Rahul says Modi changed Rafale deal to help businessman, BJP hits back

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Rahul Gandhi Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addresses a public meeting in Gujarat. File/PTI

New Delhi: The Congress and the BJP continued to exchange barbs over the Rafale aircraft deal on Friday with Rahul Gandhi accusing the prime minister of allegedly changing the "entire deal" to benefit a businessman, a charge debunked by the ruling party.

The Congress vice-president also asked why no questions were posed to prime minister Narendra Modi on BJP president Amit Shah's son Jay, whose company his party alleged has witnessed a quantum jump in turnover since the Modi government came to power.

"You ask me so many questions and I answer all of them. I want to ask you, why don't you question prime minister Modi on the Rafale deal. Why don't you ask about Amit Shah's son?

"Why don't you question the prime minister who changed the entire Rafale deal to help a businessman?" he asked.

Defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman rejected the Congress's charges calling it "politically motivated" and asserted that it was clinched at a cost "lesser" than what it would have been under the previous UPA regime.

She also questioned why the UPA government could not conclude the deal for 126 Rafale fighter jets during their tenure.

Sitharaman told reporters here that the NDA government went for the purchase as an "emergency" procurement.

She said the deal that India has got for the 36 Rafale jets is "far better" than what the UPA "would have obtained for 126".

Asked if it meant the price under the current government-to-government deal is lesser, she said "absolutely".

"The price we arrived at is lesser," she said.

No figures on the price were, however, given by the minister.

She also said that the deal was signed after approval from the cabinet committee on security and all processes were duly followed.

Prasad slams Congress

Responding to Gandhi, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress is reminded of its rule when it rakes up such an issue.

"They are finding it difficult to accept that there has been no case of corruption in the three-year rule of the Narendra Modi government," Prasad, who was briefing reporters on cabinet decisions, said when asked about allegations leveled by Gandhi.

The Rafale deal was the focus of debate earlier this week as well when the Congress accused the government of compromising national interest and security while promoting "crony capitalism" and causing a loss to the public exchequer.

Congress' communications department head Randeep Surjewala alleged that the government neglected the interests of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

He also alleged that Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of Rafale aircraft, refused to transfer technology to it and instead entered into an agreement with Reliance Defence.

The BJP dismissed the allegation, claiming it was intended to "divert attention" as party bigwigs faced the prospect of being questioned in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scandal.

In a statement, Reliance Defence Limited dubbed the Congress' allegations "baseless and unfounded".

It said its subsidiary formed a joint venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace, after a bilateral agreement between two private companies and "the Indian government has no role to play in this".

The company said government policy of June 24, 2016 allows for 49 per cent FDI in the defense sector under the automatic route without any prior approval.

Surjewala had also alleged that the aircraft was being purchased at much higher rates than what was decided after the completion of the tender process under the previous UPA government.

Read more: Latest national news | Gujarat polls: CM Rupani and 6 Congress defectors in BJP's first list

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