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NEW DELHI: The Rafale deal sparked a confrontation between BJP and Congress in the Lok Sabha on Thursday as finance minister Arun Jaitley chose to make clarifications, during his reply after members discussed the Union Budget, and accused the opposition party of “compromising the country’s security” by asking for the detailed cost break-up for the fighter aircraft India is set to buy from France.
“Asking for smaller cost breakdowns or unit costs will give away capability, scale and power of the weapons that are being bought,” the FM said.
Congress members said the government was “accountable to Parliament” and even if details were not divulged, people had the right to know broadly how much was being spent. Congress’s retort to Jaitley came from Shashi Tharoor, who said “nobody in the House had sought details” of the deal, but only wanted to know what it roughly cost the government.
By then, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who had raised the question outside Parliament, had walked into the Lok Sabha and asked Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for time to reply to Jaitley briefly. But he was denied permission even as Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy kept showing the rule book to Mahajan and asking her to grant Rahul’s request.
Jaitley said he had at least 15 examples of earlier defence ministers refusing to tell the House details of defence buying, and specifically quoted from replies of two from the UPA regime – Pranab Mukherjee and A K Anthony. He advised Rahul to “learn lessons on national security” from Mukherjee.
Jaitley claimed since Congress had no corruption charges against the Modi government, it “manufactured a crisis” by demanding to know about the Rafale deal. “Your party was stigmatised when in government because of allegations of corruption. Now the new act is, let us manufacture an allegation of corruption against NDA,” the FM said.