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Jaitley, Rahul slug it out on Rafale deal

NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Congress president Rahul Gandhi Wednesday battled over the Rafale deal with the former accusing the opposition party of “peddling untruth”, and the latter responding by calling it “the Great Robbery”.

It all started with Jaitley, in a Facebook blog, posting a set of 15 questions for Gandhi in response to Congress posers on the multi-billion dollar deal.

He said the 36 Rafale fighter jets which the BJP-led NDA government is purchasing are 20 per cent cheaper than the ones the previous UPA government had received offers for.

Charging Congress with carrying out a “false campaign”, he sought Gandhi’s response on questions varying from delays in finalising the fighter jet order to procedural knowledge and foreign supplier being allowed freedom to choose private partner to meet offset requirement.

He also sought to bring up the Bofors ghost, asking if delays in decision on buying fighter jets during the Congress regime were based on collateral considerations like the ones witnessed in the purchase of Bofors guns.               He asked Gandhi to respond, failing which he would come up with “further specific facts” that they were “merely peddling falsehood”.

Gandhi responded by calling the deal “the Great Rafale Robbery” and alluded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to protect his business friend.

“Mr Jaitley, thanks for bringing the nation’s attention back to the GREAT #RAFALE ROBBERY! How about a Joint Parliamentary Committee to sort it out? Problem is, your Supreme Leader is protecting his friend, so this may be inconvenient. Do check & revert in 24 hrs. We’re waiting!,” he tweeted.

Jaitley replied to this by stating that a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Bofors deal had called kickbacks “winding up” charges and the whole world rejected the findings.

“Mr. Gandhi, you have not attempted to answer my questions on the ‘Rafale purchase in the interest of national security’.  When no answers are given, obviously no answers could have been given by those who resort only to falsehood,” he tweeted. “Mr. Gandhi, truth holds together, falsehood falls apart – that is the fate of your Rafale falsehood.”

In another tweet he said: “Let me remind you of a JPC the Congress Government appointed in 1987 on the Bofors deal. It was headed by Mr. Shankaranand. It gave a report that the kickbacks were ‘winding up’ charges.  The whole world rejected the findings of that JPC. Why a JPC to satisfy your falsehood?”

Earlier in the day, Jaitley said in the Facebook blog that the deal NDA government had entered into with France on April 10, 2015 for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets was on better terms than the one agreed to in 2007 under the UPA regime.

French manufacturer Dassault had offered to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft in 2007.

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