Rahul Gandhi uses ex-HAL chief's remark to target 'Rafale Minister' Nirmala Sitharaman

Raju said that HAL could have built Rafale fighters in India if the government closed the original negotiations with Dassault and signed a contract with the French company.

Rahul Gandhi uses ex-HAL chief's remark to target 'Rafale Minister' Nirmala Sitharaman

NEW DELHI: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Thursday attacked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman after former Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) top boss T Suvarna Raju claimed that the fighter jets could have been built by the state-run aeronautical firm in India. 

In a report in The Hindustan Times, Raju said that HAL could have built Rafale fighters in India if the government closed the original negotiations with Dassault and signed a contract with the French company. The top boss who retired three weeks ago also questioned the government for not making the files related to the contract public.

He claimed that the company had the ability to make the advanced fighters. However, he agreed that the HAL may not have been able to build the jets at the desired 'cost-per-piece' which has been one of the reasons why the deal could not be materialised.

He said in the report that if the HAL can build a 25-tonne Sukhoi-30 from the raw material stage it could have definitely licence produced the Rafale jets.

The remark comes at a time when the Congress took its battle over the deal to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi over the alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal and demanded an early report. The federal auditor informed the Congress that it is "already examining" the entire issue for its report to Parliament and assured all the contentions raised will be looked into.

The delegation handed over a memorandum in which the government has been accused of causing loss to the public exchequer and endangering national security by bypassing state-run HAL in favour of some businessman "friends" for offset contract.

The government, however, said that an inquiry cannot be set up only to satisfy the ego of an "ill-informed" leader. "I don't think JPC or CAG inquiry is set up to satisfy the ego of an ill-informed leader who repeats lies with alarming regularity," Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said in an apparent attack on Rahul Gandhi.

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