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Rafale deal debate: Sparks fly as Rahul Gandhi targets PM Narendra Modi

Express News Service

Setting the tone for an acrimonious debate with the BJP-led government over the Rafale fighter deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he hides in his room and does not have the guts to come to Parliament to respond to questions.

Demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft from France as he opened the discussion in Lok Sabha, Gandhi alleged corruption in the deal and, referring to the Prime Minister s interview telecast a day earlier, said: He (Modi) spoke for 90 minutes in a staged interview but still did not answer questions on the Rafale issue.
We demand a JPC probe into matter. There is no reason for BJP leaders to feel afraid. The country will get to know that Modi put Rs 30,000 crore in the pockets of Double A. The contract was snatched from HAL, he said.

Double A was a reference to industrialist Anil Ambani who was repeatedly named by Gandhi before Speaker Sumitra Mahajan told him not to name a person who was not a member of the House. He called Ambani a dear friend of Modi and a failed businessman and alleged that his firm was registered barely ten days before it got the offset contract from the makers of Rafale. Ambani has already denied the allegations.

There was high drama when Gandhi sought the Speaker s permission to play an audio clip, purportedly of Goa minister Vishwajit Rane telling a person that former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had a Rafale file in his bedroom.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the clip false and fabricated and asked Gandhi if he could authenticate it. He said the Congress chief could face privilege motion, even expulsion from the House, if the clip turned out to be fabricated.

When Gandhi said he would not authenticate or play the clip, Jaitley said he was scared because he knew it was false. This man lies, and lies repeatedly, Jaitley said. The Speaker too disallowed Gandhi s request to play the clip.
The Congress chief told the House that officials of the Ministry of Defence had objected to the renegotiated Rafale deal. With PTI