NDA govt did not ignore HAL for Rafale deal: Def Min

Bengaluru: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Sunday rubbished allegations that the NDA government had snatched jobs from the country’s youth by ignoring HAL in the Rafale deal, saying it was the Congress which did not buttress the Defence public sector unit.

“To stand up to speak for HAL, you (Congress) haven’t done anything and you are alleging that we have taken away jobs by ignoring HAL… Did you complete the earlier Rafale deal during UPA? Did you take care of Indian Air Force and HAL?” she asked.

The Union Minister was responding to a query on Congress constantly targetting the NDA government over “ignoring” HAL in the multi-billion dollar Rafale Aircraft deal. Sitharaman told reporters that it was the BJP-led NDA government that took several steps to augment the production capacity of Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, made by HAL.

“From the time this government came to power, it has analysed what the problem was in increasing the capacity of Tejas…I am glad to tell you that we have now given every support to increase it to 16 from 8 (aircraft). Did you (Congress) do anything to augment capacity for production of Tejas aircraft?” she asked.

Noting that the NDA government had earmarked Rs 20,000 crore annually for HAL, which had so far received 83 more orders to manufacture Tejas, she claimed that during the UPA regime, Congress had earmarked only Rs 10,000 crore annually.

Sitharaman also flayed Congress for not helping the HAL unit manufacturing Dorniers in Uttar Pradesh, “where the first family of Congress resides.” The defence minister alleged that the entire campaign around the Rafale deal was based on falsehood and half truths.

Charging the UPA with ignoring the desperation of the Indian Air Force, which badly needed state-of-the art fighter jets, Sitharaman flayed the Congress for failing to complete the deal between Dassault and HAL during its rule. “…there was no deal, no deal… between Dassault and HAL,” she said.

Asked whether dragging Robert Vadra’s name into the Rafale deal prompted AICC President Rahul Gandhi to politicise the issue, Seetharaman said the primary trigger for adopting spit and run tactics by Congress was its failure to spot any corruption in any of the ministries under the Narendra Modi government.

“What is the primary trigger for leveling false allegations against us… I can only see, there is no corruption in Defence under Modi government. But in contrast, the UPA regime, the corridors of power were full of middlemen. So, probably that is the frustration which is bothering them,” she said.

Having been out of power for four-and-a-half years, the Congress has become desperate just as a fish out of the water because it has failed to spot corruption even in the Defence Ministry of the Modi government, Sitharaman said.

She also feared that the Congress would not even hesitate to cancel the Rafale deal after failing to establish concrete evidence to prove corruption in it.