Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said India will get its first Rafale fighter jet by September 2019. Replying to a discussion in the Lok Sabha on the Rafale aircraft deal, the minister said the country will get all 36 aircraft by 2022.
Tearing into the Congress party for raising questions on the Rafale deal, Sitharaman asked why the UPA government did not add a single fighter aircraft during its rule of 10 years.
“The Atal Bihari Vajpayee govt started the motion to acquire the 126 aircrafts in 2001 after Kargil war…In 2006, the then UPA government issued SQR for acquiring the aircrafts but the issue reached a deadlock by 2014,” Sitharaman said.
Taking a dig at the Congress, Sitharaman said there is a difference between ‘defence dealings and deals in defence’.
Sitharaman reminded Congress about Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland case who was recently extradited to India.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has claimed that Michel spoke about the “son of an Italian lady” and took “Mrs Gandhi’s” name in reference to a query.
The government has been facing attacks from the Congress on deal to buy 36 Rafale jets from France. On Wednesday, Congress President Rahul Gandhi raised questions about the process, pricing and alleged patronage in procuring 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation.
Rahul even asked permission to the play the audio tape allegedly quoting a Goa minister saying that the former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had the files related to the Rafale deal ‘in his bedroom’, but the plea was denied by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan following objection from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.