Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday sharply criticised Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s pitch against the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, underlining that every charge that the Congress had levelled against the NDA on pricing of the fighter jets is “factually false” and its claims based on “peddled untruth”.
“This (allegations on Rafale deal) is like a kindergarten or primary school debate… Every fact that they (Congress) have said on pricing is factually false. Mr Rahul Gandhi himself has given 7 different prices in different speeches with regard to the 2007 Rafale offer,” Jaitley told in an interview.
The National Democratic Alliance’s decision to enter a $8.7 billion government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale planes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, with an agreement signed a little over a year later.
But the Congress later claimed that India is paying more for the multi-role aircraft to France’s Dassault than the deal negotiated by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s.
According to the earlier plan, India was to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The Congress offensive against the fighter jet deal is mostly led by Rahul Gandhi, who has invoked the deal in assembly elections and has made it clear that he intended to make it a central piece of the party’s campaign ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The Congress insists that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is Rs 1,670 crore for each, three times the Rs 526 crore, the initial bid by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft.
“I have, at least twice, repeated this sentence, how much does he know and when will he know… Can you compare a basic aircraft’s pricing with a loaded aircraft? Can you compare simple aircraft with a weaponized aircraft? Arun Jaitley told the news agency.
“Well, I was paying 500 something and you’ve paid 1600 something… That’s the argument being given, it shows how little understanding (Rahul Gandhi) he has,” Jaitley, who recently resumed charge as a finance minister, said.
The minister had taken time off from the finance ministry due to a surgical procedure but had made efforts to counter the Congress campaign even when he was recuperating.
“What was negotiated from 2015 to 2016 and finally executed in 2016, with the escalations and the currency variations, the basic aircraft price turns out to be 9% cheaper. Is the Congress party aware of this?” he said.