NEW DELHI: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi’s accusation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi changed the “entire Rafale fighter aircraft deal” to benefit a businessman was dashed, with Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief BS Dhanoa on Thursday categorically stating that there was “no overpricing” in the purchase as the government had “negotiated a very good” deal for the French fighter jet.
Addressing the media at the Adampur Air Force station near here, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said, “”It is not overpricing… We have negotiated for 36 French fighter aircraft Rafale (at a price) lower than that in the contract. The government has negotiated a very good deal.”
“It is definitely a better deal. It is lower than what was there in the MRMCA contract,” he said without going into specifics.
The IAF Chief’s statement comes after the Congress vice president asked the media to raise questions about the Rafale deal and on BJP chief Amit Shah’s son Jay’s income from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“You ask lots of questions from me. And I always answer. But why don’t you ask questions about the Rafale deal and Amit Shah’s son Jay from the Prime Minister,” Gandhi told reporters.
Rahul also took pot shots at PM Modi over the Rafale deal on Twitter saying, “Can you explain ‘Reliance’ on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal? Self ‘Reliance’ is obviously a critical aspect of ‘Make in India’,” he had tweeted.
Congress had earlier accused the government of compromising national interest and security while promoting “crony capitalism” and causing a loss to the public exchequer.
The BJP rubbished the allegation, claiming it was intended to “divert attention” as the party bigwigs faced the prospect of being questioned in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scandal.
Reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s allegations, senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Congress is reminded of its rule when it rakes up such an issue.
“They are finding it difficult to accept that there has been no case of corruption in the three-year rule of the Narendra Modi government,” Prasad, who was briefing reporters on cabinet decisions, said when asked about allegations levelled by Gandhi.
In 2015, the Indian government had withdrawn the tender to procure 126 multi-medium role combat aircraft (MMRCA).
Shortly after, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to France in April 2015, India had decided to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets in a government-to-government deal to boost the depleting fighter squad strength of the Indian Air Force.
The highly versatile Rafale is currently being used for bombing missions over Syria and Iraq as part of an international campaign against the self-styled Islamic State jihadist group.
It has also been deployed in the past for air strikes in Libya and Afghanistan.