New Delhi: Hitting back at Congress President Rahul Gandhi over his allegations concerning the Rafale deal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday rejected the charge that the Narendra Modi government had used its influence to benefit a private player.
Calling Gandhi “an ill-informed gentleman”, he said it was unfortunate that the entire party was following him in ignorance.
Jaitley, who was responding to questions after a meeting of the Union Cabinet, said that the deal done by the Narendra Modi government with France was nine per cent cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA in terms of the basic cost of the fighter jet and 20 per cent cheaper for its weaponised version.
Apparently rebutting Gandhi’s charge that the Prime Minister had benefited “a friend” in the deal to purchase fighter jets, Jaitley said the government has no role to play in the choice by the private manufacturer of an offsets partner.
“There is no scope of role of any private party in the entire transaction. All the 36 aircraft will reach India in flying condition and nothing will be added here. There is no scope for a private party but you keep alleging.”
Attacking Gandhi, who has spearheaded the Congress attack on the Rafale deal, Jaitley said he was making baseless allegations.
“The Congress has proved that in dynastic politics, ignorance is contagious. If a person is ill-informed and does not have sufficient information, then the entire party lacks information. Let the problem remain within the Congress,” he said.
“To satisfy the ego of an ill-informed gentleman, there are no options,” he added.
He accused the Congress of doing little to boost indigenous production of advanced weaponary and said that the NDA government had helped the process by liberalising FDI norms in defence first to 26 per cent and then raising it to 49 per cent.
Jaitley said there can be more than 49 per cent FDI in special cases.
He said the Congress was willing to purchase fighter jets from foreign private players but was not willing to encourage Indian private players in defence manufacturing.
“This is backward thinking and we disagree with them on this,” he said.