A day after a petition seeking stay on the India-France Rafale deal was listed by the Supreme Court, the Narendra Modi government held a Cabinet on Thursday to provide leaders with facts to counter allegations levelled against it.
A senior government functionary said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Secretary, Defence Production, Ajay Kumar highlighted various aspects of the deal in the meeting, which lasted more than two-and-a-half hours, reported PTI.
The ministers were informed that it was a deal between two governments which involved no private party, leaving little scope for corruption. In the meeting, the aircraft's capability was highlighted, which would strengthen the Indian Air Force and make the fighter jets an asset for it.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was directly listed in the petition as the first respondent. The Opposition has increased its attacks on the Rafale deal against the government in order to corner the government ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, refused to get into the details of what transpired in the meeting and took a dig at Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi over the fighter jet deal. Responding to a question, he said, "Congress has proved that in a dynastic party, ignorance is contagious, if one lacks information, all are ignorant."
Jaitley said questioning the deal is the ‘biggest ignorance’. He said a basic aircraft is of "no use" as it can only fly the pilot. He said the cost escalation and currency variations between 2007 and 2016 have to be considered in calculating the cost of the Rafale jet. He also pointed out that a weaponised jet is 20 percent cheaper after the negotiations and since it is a government-to-government deal, no private party or a Public Sector Undertaking is involved.
"The 36 jets will come in a fly away condition and not even a bolt will be fitted here... during UPA (rule), they did not believe in transfer of technology but preferred to buy (hardware) from foreign buyers...," he said.
The presentation in the meeting also underscored Modi's efforts to take all his allies, who are represented in the council of ministers, on board, as the government works to counter the Opposition on the issue in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections which are less than eight months away.
The presentation was made before the ministers and BJP leaders, who will reach out to the people all across the country on the achievements of the government under a week-long campaign. Separate presentations were also made on the government's ambitious 'Ayushman Bharat' mission, a health insurance cover for the poor, and 'Swachh Bharat'
Opposition parties led by the Congress have been attacking the Modi government over the deal, alleging that it was struck at an exorbitant price and benefited an Indian businessman at the cost of the government-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. The charges have been denied by the government.
Updated Date: Sep 06, 2018 14:12:45 IST