New Delhi: Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday rejected the Congress demand for a probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying an inquiry cannot be set up only to satisfy the ego of an “ill-informed” leader of the Opposition party who “repeats lies”.
He also said that former defence minister A.K. Antony has a lot to answer for keeping the public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was to be offset partner of the French maker of Rafale jets, in the lurch despite being in office for eight years. “I don’t think JPC or CAG inquiry is set up to satisfy the ego of an ill-informed leader who repeats lies with alarming regularity,” said Mr Prasad, in an apparent attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
His response came after Congress leaders met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) seeking a probe into alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal and for leaving HAL out of the offset contract and transfer of technology. The Congress has also been demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the matter. Mr Prasad said Mr Antony was the defence minister when the offset rule was framed, as incumbent defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already articulated.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.
“He was the minister who left HAL in lurch, as far as the joint operations is concerned. Mr Antony has a lot to answer. What has struck me more is that Mr Antony, who was defence minister for eight years during which nothing could be done for modernisation and empowerment of Indian forces, (is making statement on the issue),” said Mr Prasad.
The law minister also said that Indian Air Force badly needs planes as the old planes are causing repeated accidents. “Should the Congress at least rise to the occasion for the sake of country’s safety and security,” Mr Prasad added.