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Opponents malign Modi govt on India-France Rafale jet deal


August 10, 2018

ISLAMABAD: Indian Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has alleged that the Opposition in his country is trying to malign the Narendra Modi government by presenting fabricated facts regarding India-France Rafale fighter jet deal.

She said this while responding to the Opposition's charge that ''the Rafale deal was a case of monumental criminal misconduct by the Modi government and the scam involving it is much bigger than the Bofors scandal.''

The charges were made by former Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie a day earlier. The two also demanded a time-bound probe into the Rafale deal by national auditor CAG. Sinha and Shourie, while addressing a press conference along with lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan, had raised a number of questions over the Rs58000 crore deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The trio, known as strong critics of the Modi government, also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of single-handedly changing the parameters of the deal and that there was a gross violation of mandatory procedures in finalising the contract.

The entire deal was a "textbook case of criminal misconduct, of misuse of public office and of enriching parties at the expense of the national interest and national security", they alleged, adding there was an "effort" by the government to "conceal" facts.

The Indian Defence Minister took to twitter to refute Opposition's charge and said that proper Inter-governmental Agreement (IGA) was followed while signing the deal for the "benefit of the nation". ''The Opposition is trying to malign the ruling government by repeating fabricated facts about the deal, signed between India and France in 2016,'' Sitharaman said in one of her tweets.

"All allegations being leveled in various press conferences are already answered on the floor of the Parliament. A recent attempt, in the House, to malign the government through baseless charges collapsed. Today`s was yet another attempt at repeating fabricated facts," Sitharaman said. The Indian Defence Minister continued by saying, "The 2016 IGA has followed the due process and has been done to benefit the nation. Repeating these allegations ad nauseam is only an attempt to malign the government," she added.

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government of Narendra Modi signed the deal with France-based Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 Rafale jets in 2016. The Congress-led Opposition has time and again cornered the central government over the defence pact alleging irregularities in it. It has multiple times demanded of the government to disclose the price of the jets. On Tuesday, the Congress also demanded the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the deal.

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