Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Saturday stated that individuals questioning the Rafale deal with France for the purchase of fighter aircraft are “irresponsible and anti-national”. The senior leader, who also denied harbouring any aspirations to become the next Prime Minister, expressed confidence that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would retain power in 2019 and its allies would remain in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Mr Gadkari’s remarks came a day after the Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of “compromising” on national security and causing a loss of Rs 12,632 crore to the state exchequer on account of the purchase of 36 Rafale jets under the inter-governmental deal.
While speaking at a conclave, the Union minister of road transport and highways said, “Where is the corruption? It is irresponsible and anti-national to make such allegations. He also asked rhetorically if the country did not require a front line fighter plane such as a Rafale jet and took potshots at the previous government by questioning whether the procurement of critical defence assets could be postponed for five to six years over fears of corruption.
Citing the annual report of Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the fighter aircraft, the Congress has alleged that the company sold each jet to India at a price which was Rs 351 crore higher than that of aircraft sold to Qatar and Egypt 11 months ago.
Speaking about the nearly Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case involving fugitive diamantaire Nirav Modi, Mr Gadkari said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has nothing to do with the businessman and it was unfair to “bill” the blame on it. “Who was in power when he was given loan,” asked the Union minister.
Mr Gadkari said the NDA government would take appropriate action against persons wanted by India who are holed up abroad such as Nirav Modi, former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi and businessman Vijay Mallya.
Mr Gadkari said the BJP’s recent victory in Northeastern states such as Tripura signified the prevailing mood in the country about NDA rule, and exuded confidence that the alliance would retain power after the next general elections.
He said, barring Gujarat, where the Congress has increased its seat tally, the principal opposition party has seen a steady decline in elections.
However, admitting that the government has more work to do in the rural and agricultural sectors, Mr Gadkari said specific measures are being taken on these fronts