Hitting back at the Congress on the Rafale fighter jet deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday alleged that the party had stopped the deal when it was in power as it “didn’t get the money” and ignored national security.
Replying to a debate on the Rafale issue in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman alleged that the Congress is only shedding crocodile tears on the HAL not getting the offset contract as it did nothing to scale up the capacity of the state-run firm.
The BJP-led NDA government gave Rs one lakh crore worth of contracts to HAL, she said.
Taking on the Congress, the minister said, “You stopped the deal, forgetting Air Force was suffering. You didn’t conclude the deal, because it didn’t suit you. The deal didn’t get you money.”
“They did not intend to buy the aircraft till something else was done. There is something different between defence deal and deal in defence,” she said, asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government gave priority to national security.
“You are misleading the country by saying the NDA government reduced 126 Rafale jets to 36. Congress was supposed to buy 18 in fly-away condition, the NDA raised that to 36,” she said.
The delivery of first Rafale will happen in 2019, while the last aircraft of 36 jets will be delivered in 2022, the minister said.
She said the IAF always advises government to buy two squadrons, which is 36 aircraft instead of 18, in case of emergency purchases, the Minister said.