Rahul Gandhi Brings the House Down With Parrikar Tape on 'Kaali Dal' Rafale
New Delhi: Pandemonium broke out in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday when Congress president Rahul Gandhi sought to play an unverified recording in which a Goa minister purportedly implies that former defence minister and Goa CM Manohar Parrikar is in possession of damaging files on the fighter jet deal.
Calling the Rafale deal, a ‘kaali dal’, Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn’t speak on the issue even in a 90-minute “staged interview” with news agency ANI on Tuesday.
Rahul Gandhi was criticised severely by senior BJP leader and leader of Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, who accused Congress president of "lying repeatedly". He challenged Gandhi to authenticate the tape before playing it and risk being expelled from the house if the tape is found to be fabricated.
In his 20-minute speech in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi posed some direct questions to the Prime Minister – when was the contract changed from 126 to 36 aircraft, did the PM do so unilaterally or after consulting the Air Force chief, why was the price hike from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore, was the hike in price not objected to by defence ministry officials, why was contract the snatched from an experienced entity like HAL and given to Anil Ambani at a loss.
Daring the PM to answer his questions in the House, Gandhi said Modi did not "have the guts to come to Parliament and confront questions on the Rafale deal”.
In proceedings that were punctuated by disruptions and adjournment, Gandhi also tried to play an unverified recording of a conversation between Goa health minister Vishwajeet Rane and an unidentified person. In the recording, Rane is purportedly heard saying that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has all the files pertaining to the Rafale deal that he's using to hold the Centre to “ransom”.
Following objections from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and other BJP MPs, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan denied permission to play the tape. Gandhi then tried to read out the transcript of the tape, but the Congress chief’s mic was turned off twice.
Cornering the PM on Rafale, Gandhi reiterated the demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) investigation, claiming that in its order, the Supreme Court had not ruled out a JPC investigation into the matter.
Gandhi also went after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, saying that she was “hiding behind protests by AIADMK MPs” in the Upper House.
Hitting back at Gandhi, Jaitley said the Congress chief had a history of “lying to the House” and accused him of trying to play a fabricated tape in Parliament.