New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday accused the Congress of "seriously compromising" national security by demanding disclosure of details of the Rafale fighter jet deal and also "manufacturing" corruption allegations against the NDA government.
Jaitley's attack against the Congress in the Lok Sabha during which he defended the government's decision against making the break-up of the nearly Rs 58,000 crore deal public came even as Congress president Rahul Gandhi fired a fresh salvo at the government. Gandhi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not answering his questions because there was something "fishy" about it.
Amid acrimony between Congress and BJP members, Jaitley also advised Gandhi to "learn" from former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee "lessons on national security."
"Your party was stigmatised when you were in government because of allegation of corruption. Now the new act is, let us manufacture an allegation of corruption against the NDA. So when you couldn't find anything, you said please disclose the price of the Rafale deal," Jaitley said while replying to a
discussion on the Union Budget.
"I charge the Congress of seriously compromising India's security...Mr Modi has run a clean government for last 4 years, so let us manufacturer a crisis, let us manufacture an issue. And the manufactured issue is, please tell me the details of the Rafale deal," the finance minister said referring to the demands by the Congress to make public details of the government-to-government deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
Jaitley said when UPA was in power, then defence ministers Pranab Mukherjee and AK Antony had on 15 occasions told Parliament that giving out such details would be against the interest of national security. He said one of the questions then related to missiles being procured from Israel.
He said the Congress president should go to Mukherjee and "get lessons on national security."
Gandhi has been targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the 2016 deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets. "What is the price that the Prime Minister has spent on Rafale," Gandhi had asked on Tuesday.
Alleging that something wrong has happened in the Rafale deal, Gandhi also noted that the country has to understand that the Prime Minister talked about corruption and had said he will launch an attack on it.
"But in the Rafale deal, there has been corruption and the Prime Minister is protecting those who have done corruption," Gandhi alleged without elaborating.
Continuing his attack on Thursday, Gandhi referred to Modi's speeches in Parliament on Wednesday, telling reporters outside Parliament that it was clear that the prime minister was not interested in answering "fundamental questions".
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said, had first announced that she would inform the nation about the cost of purchasing Rafale aircraft but was now saying she could not do so as it was a state secret.
"Which of her two statements are correct," he asked.
Later in a tweet, Gandhi asked if she "changed" her stand to hide corruption, or to protect prime minister or his friend. "Why did the Raksha Mantri change her stance from: I will reveal the price of the RAFALE planes in Nov 2017 to the price is a state secret in Feb 2018. A) Corruption B) To protect Modiji C) To protect Modiji's friend D) All of above," he tweeted.
Gandhi said he had also posed three questions to Modi. These included the aircraft's cost and "handing over" the deal to a businessman after "snatching" it from a public undertaking. However, there was no reply, Gandhi said.
"There can be only one answer and it is that there is something fishy about this," he said.
In Lok Sabha, Jaitley said security pacts were inherent part of defence transactions "because when you disclose the details of the price, you can give an approximate price, but when you give those specific details, you are giving details of the weapon system that you possess, and the capacity of the weapon systems which you don't want to inform the enemy."
Shashi Tharoor (Congress) told Jaitley that his party was not seeking details to compromise national security but only demanding transparency.
Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma accused Modi of indulging in "political corruption" in the Rafale deal. "I charge the PM with political corruption. This is political corruption, it is not promoting crony capitalism. This is political corruption. What we will call it?," he told reporters.