Rafale row: Is opposition being used in game of corporate rivalry, asks Sitharaman

Sitharaman warned that neither the govt nor the opposition should become pawns in the hands of the corporate giants in the Rafale case.

Rafale row: Is opposition being used in game of corporate rivalry, asks Sitharaman

NEW DELHI: Accusing the Opposition of spreading misinformation in the Rafale jet deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday wondered whether they were becoming pawns in corporate rivalry and whether the procurement of 36 fighter jets was being "sabotaged."

During her address at an event here, Sitharaman said ever since the Narendra Modi government came to power, there was a conscious effort to keep middlemen at bay from the corridors of the Defence Ministry.

"I want every strand of this debate to be explained, as much as it can be, without any of us playing into the hands of international corporate warfare. None of us should play party to any corporate warfare,'' she said.

"We cannot become pawns in the hands of the corporate giants to constantly bully the government, to constantly throw misinformation at the public, to misinform the public," she said.

Her attack on the opposition parties comes a day after a newspaper report claimed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to buy 36 Rafale jets, instead of 126 as negotiated by the previous UPA government, was taken while bypassing mandated procedures, pushing the price of each aircraft by 41.42 percent. 

The Congress has launched a fresh salvo at the government on the Rafale deal citing this report.

Sitharaman was addressing a seminar on 'India's Strategic Interest in Context of the Rafale Deal'. She accused the opposition of doing a "disservice" to the nation by misinforming the public on the fighter jet deal.

"You (opposition) are misinforming the public and doing a disservice to the country if you are becoming pawns in a corporate rivalry. Is India's interest at the top of your agenda or are you becoming a partner to some kind of corporate rivalry," she asked.

"Is your intention to sabotage this procurement? If the intention is to stop the purchase, (then) that's a disservice to the nation," she said. 

Earlier, attacking the Congress party, BJP said that Rahul Gandhi was raking up the Rafale issue because AugustaWestland case middleman Christian Michel was spilling beans on the VVIP chopper scam case.

BJP national spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, at a press conference at the party state headquarters in Goa, questioned Congress president Rahul Gandhi`s repeated raking up of the Rafale deal despite the fact that Defence Minister Sitharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley explained the nuances of the fighter jet deal for hours in Parliament.

"To distract people from the issue (VVIP chopper scam), they are raking the issue of Rafale. They even made a doctored tape in Goa. They know Congress is a party of frauds. They only make fake allegations," he said.

The national spokesperson said the Congress had to face a setback on the Rafale deal often, and that its leaders kept lying over and over again to keep the facade going.

"Congress kept lying on it. Congress thinks it is above the Supreme Court and the Parliament," he said.