Antony Accuses Govt of 'Suppressing Facts' on Rafale, Sitharaman Hits Back Saying 'Parliament Knows'
Former defence minister AK Antony said the current government is "guilty" of "gravely compromising" national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal.
File photos of AK Antony and Nirmala Sitharaman.
New Delhi: Senior Congress leader A K Antony on Tuesday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of suppressing facts on the Rafale deal, which soon saw Sitharaman addressing the press to refute the charges saying the Parliament already knows about the price of the aircraft.
Former Defence Minister Antony also accused the government of being "guilty" of "gravely compromising" national security in the Rafale fighter jet deal and asked why the government is shying away from setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe it.
Sitharaman hit back saying, "AK Antony is a very senior leader. He is aware of the negotiations that took place in the Rafale deal. We have already informed the Parliament about the price of the aircraft. It is wrong on his part to say that we should have just bought 126 planes. That is not how it works."
Addressing a press conference, Antony rejected as "completely false" the charges of Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 put the "final nail in the coffin" when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal.
The former defence minister accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), both nationally and internationally.
Sitharaman said, "If the UPA was sure of the deal then why didn't they go ahead with it? Not choosing HAL as the manufacturer was a decision taken by the UPA."
Antony also asked if the price of the Rafale fighter jets was cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA and why it did not buy 126 aircraft instead of 36 from the French manufacturer.
"The Congress party demands that the Modi government publish the price of the Congress-UPA's deal of 126 aircrafts and the price of its 36 Rafale deals, including per aircraft price of the same to clear the doubts of the people of India, let the Nation decide who is correct,” he said.
"Since, there is a growing perception that the Modi government's Rafale purchase deal has more skeletons in its closet, let there be Joint Parliamentary Probe (JPC) to bring the truth out in the open," he told reporters.
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