A day after Indian Air Force (IAF) chief BS Dhanoa called Rafale a “game changer” and the Supreme Court verdict on the deal a “very fine” judgment, senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily on Thursday accused him of “lying”.
The remarks triggered a controversy with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) saying the Congress was shattered by the speed of various probes into its corruption.
“Today, to say it is fine [the Supreme Court judgment]…I think that IAF chief is not fine….he is not fine, he is lying. He is suppressing the truth. He is a party to suppressing the truth,” Moily told reporters in Hyderabad, in a rare attack by an Opposition leader against a serving chief.
“The statement is unfortunate. This shows that their [Congress party’s] desperation is complete, and they are totally shattered by the speed of inquiry against corruption,” Union minister Prakash Javadekar said at a press conference.
“I haven’t seen what Moily ji has said. As far as the Air Chief’s statement is concerned, that’s our question as well. We know that UPA [United Progressive Alliance] chose the best fighter aircraft and it was on the basis of urgency that 126 planes were recommended by IAF. Our question is if they really got a cheaper deal then why they [the NDA] bought only 36 and not 126 aircraft? And I’m not even mentioning the transfer of technology which was the one of the most valuable component of the previous deal that this government squandered [on],” Congress spokesperson Pranav Jha said.
Dhanoa on Wednesday hailed the Supreme Court order and deprecated attempts at politicising defence purchases, suggesting that this had earlier led to the delay in the army acquiring the Bofors gun.
“I am not going to comment on the judgment but the Supreme Court has given a very fine judgment. It has also said that this plane is badly needed,” he told reporters in Jodhpur.
Moily demanded an apology from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for having sacrificed the security of the nation by entering into the deal.
He said Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has been assailing the Prime Minister over the deal, need not apologise or the “bold stand” he has taken on the “scam of the century” as demanded by BJP parliamentarians (including in the Lok Sabha where they have been flashing placards to the effect). Instead, Gandhi should be appreciated, Moily said.
The BJP has been demanding an apology from Gandhi for attacking Modi over the Rafale deal even after the Supreme Court’s verdict found no wrongdoing in it.
“Even the words expressed by the Supreme Court you have heard are based on falsehood and web of lies made by the Government of India,” the Congress leader said.
Sniffing an electoral opportunity in the Rafale deal, the Congress has been relentlessly keeping up the heat on the Rafale contract. The deal has become controversial on account of the fact that one of the offset contracts signed by Dassault is with the Reliance Group of Anil Ambani. The Congress claims the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to provide Ambani this opportunity for an offset deal. Both the government and Reliance have repeatedly denied this.
On December 14, the Supreme Court ruled there was no need for an investigation into the deal, saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing. “We don’t find any material to show it is commercial favouritism,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said while rejecting petitions calling for a court-monitored probe.
First Published: Dec 21, 2018 01:13 IST