Rahul Gandhi to Nirmala Sitharaman:  Prove to Parliament you didn’t lie on HAL deal or resign

Raksha Mantri (RM) Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday found herself at the receiving end of charges that she had been economical with the truth while defending the Modi Government on the Rafale deal

NH Web Desk

A day after defence psu Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. revealed that for the first time in three decades it was facing a cash crunch, Congress President Rahul Gandhi dared Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to place documents in Parliament to prove that the Government had placed orders worth Rupees one lakh Crore with the psu.

“When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM's Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL,” the Congress president tweeted on Sunday.

Two days after Sitharaman made the claims in the Lok Sabha on Friday, Gandhi took to Twitter to question her claims, tagging a media report that said "no actual order has been placed". Prove the claim or resign, demanded Rahul Gandhi.

The same day when the Raksha Mantri ( RM) Nirmala Sitharaman was passionately defending the Rafale deal in the Lok Sabha and rebutting charges that the Modi Government was giving HAL a shabby deal, the HAL management revealed that for the first time in decades it had to arrange for an overdraft to pay salary to its employees.

HAL Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) R Madhavan had told the media in Bengaluru that while HAL was always a cash rich company, its cash in hand had gone into negative. The CMD also revealed that the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and Indian Coast Guard owed the company ₹15,700 Crore. The company’s monthly spend on paying salary to its 29 thousand employees is ₹358 Crore.

The Indian Air Force, HAL’s biggest buyer, has not paid the company since September, 2017 and already owes HAL ₹14,500 Crore, the CMD added.

Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday had defended the Rafale deal in a marathon reply that took up almost three hours. Congress spokesman Pawan Khera on Saturday had accused the Defence Minister of lying to Parliament during her reply on at least four counts. Khera went on to cite the following:

1. The Raksha Mantri declared in Parliament that there was no deal between Dassault and HAL. But she deliberately overlooked and failed to mention the workshare agreement signed by the two on March 13, 2015.

2. The Raksha Mantri claimed that she was not even aware of who was the offset partner of Dassault. Khera wondered aloud whether she remembered receiving the visiting French Defence Minister in October, 2017 in New Delhi, before she flew off to Mumbai and then to Nagpur with Anil Ambani to lay the foundation stone of the joint venture between Dassault and Ambani. She would have read media reports, perhaps, Khera asked.

3. The Raksha Mantri completely glossed over the statement of the Foreign Secretary V. Jaishankar who had told the media 48 hours before Prime Minister Modi made the announcement of a new deal in Paris in the presence of Anil Ambani, that negotiations between Dassault and HAL were still going on.

Sitharaman claimed that the UPA’s price of ₹526 Crore per plane was just for the ‘bare shell’ and did not include weapons. Khera produced copies of the bid and the agreement to say that the Raksha Mantri was wrong. Next the RM would say that UPA negotiated and the Indian air Force approved planes without an engine, Khera sarcastically added.

The aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration, I repeat, the same configuration as had been tested and approved by the Indian Air Force and with the maintenance responsibility by France.

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Published: 6 Jan 2019, 11:53 AM