New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday yet again invoked French President Emmanuel Macron on the Rafale deal and attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, saying that the French leader had told him that the price of the fighter jet can be revealed as it involves tax payers money.
Addressing the Saanjhi Virasat Bachao Sammelan here which was attended by several opposition leaders, Gandhi said they had come together on a common platform as their vision and ideology assimilated all sections while the BJP worked to the advantage of a few industrialists.
The meeting, convened by rebel JD-U leader Sharad Yadav, was attended by CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury, Samajwadi Party’s Dharmendra Yadav, RJD’s Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav, National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, NCP’s Tariq Anwar, JMM’s Sanjeev Kumar besides Chandan Mitra of Trinamool Congress and Danish Ali of Janata Dal-Secular.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot, Ahmed Patel, Ajay Maken and PC Chako were also present.
The meeting is part of efforts to bring opposition parties together to forge a combined front against the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
He asserted that the opposition parties would defeat the ruling party in the assembly polls later this year and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Gandhi, who had spoken on the Rafale deal during the no-confidence motion debate in Parliament last month, said that Modi could not reply to the charges levelled by him.
He alleged that the fighter jet, whose price the UPA government had negotiated at Rs 526 crore, had been bought by the Modi government for Rs 1,500 crore each.
He also alleged the contract to build the planes was “snatched” from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which has experience of building fighter jets.
Gandhi said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that the price of Rafale fighter jets cannot be revealed due to a secrecy pact with the French government and then referred to his meeting with Macron.
“I asked the French President if the price of aircraft comes under secret pact. He said ‘no, there is nothing like it. It is taxpayers money, how it can be a secret. If the Indian government wants to tell, it can.’ I told this to the Prime Minister (during the debate on no-confidence motion) and he did not speak a word. He got angry and gave a long speech and discussed other issues. The chowkidaar did not speak about Rafale,” the Congress leader said.
Gandhi had said during the no-confidence motion that the French President had clearly conveyed to him that there was no problem in sharing details relating to the Rafale.
France, however, issued a statement later saying that a security agreement of 2008 legally binds the two countries to protect the classified information relating to operational capabilities of defence equipment.
Gandhi said opposition parties had different ideologies but they were together on a platform as they had a common vision of the country.
“BJP President Amit Shah had said in a speech that India is a golden bird. That is what Britishers said 70-80 years ago,” Gandhi said. “Those who view the country as a golden bird want to cage it. So they (the BJP) are making the cage, and we are trying to stop them.”
Gandhi said all sections of people were unhappy with the government. He also referred to Modi’s Independence Day speech and said BJP leaders talk as if nothing was done before 2014.
The Congress leader also alleged that the clapping during Modi’s speech on Wednesday was orchestrated and children were clapping on cue given by their teachers.
He said the Congress does not talk of “BJP-free India” unlike the BJP which talks of a “Congress-free India”.
“We want to tell them that their ideology will be defeated by our ideology,” he said.