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Congress Moves Privilege Motion Against PM Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman for 'Lying' on Rafale Deal

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday engaged in a war of words over the price details of the Rafale fighter jet deal, with both parties accusing each other of misleading Parliament.

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Updated:July 24, 2018, 7:23 PM IST
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Congress Moves Privilege Motion Against PM Modi, Nirmala Sitharaman for 'Lying' on Rafale Deal
File photo of PM Narendra Modi. (LSTV GRAB via PTI)
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New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday moved a privilege motion against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for “lying” about the secrecy clause in a 2008 Indo-French pact during the no-trust vote in Parliament on July 20.

In his plea to the Speaker, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Sitharaman's assertions "on the floor of this House were absolutely false" and she had misled not just the members of the House but "the entire nation".

Referring to Modi, he said the Prime Minister's claim on transparency in the Rafale agreement is "factually incorrect, untrue and deliberately made with the intention to mislead the House".

The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday engaged in a war of words over the price details of the Rafale fighter jet deal, with both parties accusing each other of misleading Parliament.

Days after Congress president Rahul Gandhi assailed the government in Parliament over the Rafale deal, the party fielded three of its top leaders — former defence minister AK Antony, Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala — who demanded the Modi dispensation must reveal the price details of the aircraft.

The leaders also released a copy of the confidential agreement the UPA government had signed with France in January 2008 to drive home the point that it does not restrict India to reveal the price details of the Rafale deal.

The BJP, on the other hand, fielded law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to dismiss the questions raised by the Congress. He called the allegations a “collective singing of falsehood” to defend Gandhi, who, he said, was “prima facie guilty of breach of privilege for misleading” the Lok Sabha.

Prasad also cited replies made in Parliament by then UPA government on defence purchases and other issues in which its defence minister, first Pranab Mukherjee and then AK Antony, had declined to share price details and other information on the ground of national security.

In his address during the debate on the no-confidence motion against the government on Friday, Gandhi had said that French President Emmanuel Macron had told him during a meeting here earlier this year that there was no secrecy pact that restricts India from revealing price details of Rafale aircraft.

The Congress has been demanding that the government share details of the Rafale fighter aircraft price as it accused the Modi government of buying them at a much higher price than it was originally negotiated.

Prasad said the base price of each aircraft negotiated by the government with France is at 91.75 million Euro, nine per cent less than the 100.85 million Euro the UPA government had decided upon.

The government has been forthcoming in declaring the aircraft's price but details of the operationally sensitive matter, including India specific enhancement and logistics support package, would end up disclosing the vital information about the Indian Air Force's strength, the minister said.

Following Gandhi’s claim in the Lok Sabha that the French president had told him that there is no secrecy pact on the Rafale deal pricing with India, the French Embassy had said in a statement that a security agreement it concluded with India in 2008 legally binds the two countries to protect the classified information relating to operational capabilities of defence equipment.
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