New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday alleged that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman “lied” in Parliament that government orders worth Rs one lakh crore were provided to HAL, while demanding that she should either place the documents in support of her statement in the House or resign.
Ms Sitharaman hit back at the allegation saying it is a matter of “shame” that the Congress chief was “misleading” the country without fully understanding the issue.
Mr Gandhi’s attack came after a media report claimed that “not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now”.
The media report cited senior HAL management officials in order to back its claim.
“When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM's Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament,” Mr Gandhi tweeted.
“Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign,” he said.
Suggesting that Gandhi jumped the gun while making the charges following a media report, Sitharaman’s office tweeted that Gandhi should “start from ABCs” and read the complete report before commenting on it.
“It’s a shame that the president of @INCIndia is misleading the nation. HAL has signed contracts worth `26570.8 crore (Between 2014 and 2018) and contracts worth `73000 crore are in the pipeline. Will @RahulGandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house?,” Sitharaman tweeted from the defence minister’s official handle.
She also tweeted details of contract awarded to HAL since 2014 when BJP came to power.
According to her, the `49,797 crore contract to HAL for supply of 83 light combat aircraft Tejas to the Indian Air Force was at the stage of technical evaluation stage.
Another contract, whose tentative size is `20,000 crore, for supply of a batch of Kamov Ka 226 T helicopters was also in the similar stage.
Sitharaman also pointed out that the media report said that “LS (Lok Sabha) record shows” that she did not claim the orders were signed and mentioned that they were in the works.
Sitharaman made the remarks about HAL during her reply to debate on Rafale deal in Lok Sabha on Friday.
The Congress has been targeting the government, alleging that it denied the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) an offset contract under the Rafale fighter jets deal with France, a charge the government has denied.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government has accused the Congress of not supporting HAL during its rule and asserted that the government is now strengthening the defence public sector undertaking.
Gandhi had on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “weakening” HAL to help his “suit-boot” friend. Gandhi’s attack had come over a media report which claimed that HAL, grappling with low finances, was forced to borrow Rs 1,000 crore to pay salaries to its employees for the first time in years.