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Gandhi, Parrikar spar over Rafale a day after their meeting


IANS New Delhi/Panaji
Congress President Rahul Gandhi and ailing Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar were engaged in a public spat on Wednesday after the BJP leader accused Gandhi of using his courtesy meeting with him for "petty political gains" and the latter writing a letter stating that he "empathised" with Parrikars situation and understood "the immense pressure" he was under.
Gandhi's two-page letter came hours after Parrikar, a former defence minister, wrote a letter stating that he felt let down by Gandhi's remarks attributed to him over the Rafale deal and that no such conversation took place.
The ailing Goa Chief Minister is suffering from advanced pancreatic cancer.
Gandhi, in a speech at an event in Delhi on Wednesday, again raked up his meeting with Parrikar and said that former defence minister had said that while changing the Rafale deal, "the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) did not discuss it with the Defence Minister."
Gandhi had made similar remarks at Kochi on Tuesday.
In his letter to Parrikar, Gandhi said he was "disturbed to hear" about a letter "which you have supposedly written but instead leaked to the press before I have had a chance to read it."
"Parrikarji, I empathise with your situation. I understand the immense pressure you are under after our meeting yesterday. Pressure that has forced you to take the highly unusual step of demonstrating your loyalty to the PM and his cronies by attacking me in this uncharacteristic manner," Gandhi said.
He said his visit was strictly personal and "driven purely by my empathy for your situation" and added that he had also visited the BJP leader in the United States to enquire about his health.
"Parrikar Ji, regardless of my visit, I am a democratic representative, elected to serve the Indian people, and as such I reserve the absolute right to attack the corrupt PM on his blatant dishonesty in the Rafale deal."
"I have not shared any details of my conversation with you when we met in Goa yesterday. In my two speeches since we met, I have referred to what is already in the public domain," Gandhi said.
He said it is a fact that in April 2015, while Parrikar was inaugurating a fish market in Goa, Modi announced the Rafale deal in France.
"It is also a fact that you clearly stated to the press that you had no idea about the new deal engineered by the PM. This has been widely reported in all sections of the media."
Gandhi also referred to an alleged audio recording of Vishawajit Rane a cabinet colleague of Parrikar. "It is a fact that there is an audio recording of your own cabinet colleague, claiming you told ministers in a cabinet meeting that you have the Rafale papers in your "bed room", implying that you have power over PM Modi and his cronies."
The Congress chief said he would have normally refrained from this exchange. "Unfortunately, your leaked letter, has forced me to clarify my position on this unfortunate and unnecessary controversy."
Gandhi said he was again wishing Parrikar "a speedy recovery" and hoped to see him again in the near future.
He wrote "with much affection" while signing off the letter.
Parrikar, in his letter, denied having a discussion with Gandhi on the Rafale deal during the brief closed-door meeting at the state legislative assembly complex.
"In the five minutes you spent with me, neither did you mention anything about Rafale, nor did we discuss anything about/related to it. Nothing whatsoever about Rafale was even mentioned in your meeting with me. The inter-government agreement and the procurement of Rafale are as per defence procurement procedure," Parrikar said, adding that the fighter aircraft have been procured following all stated procedures keeping national security as top priority.
"It is reported in the media today that you have said quoting me that I was nowhere in the process of procuring Rafale nor did I have any information then about it. I feel let down that you have used this visit for your petty political gains," Parrikar said.
"Paying a courtesy visit and then stooping so low as to make a false statement for petty political gain has raised, in my mind, questions about the sincerity and purpose of your visit itself," Parrikar said in his letter.
Parrikar also said that he was fighting a "life threatening illness", but his "training and ideological strength" were helping him serve Goa irrespective.
"With deep disappointment, I write to you hoping you would put out the truth. Kindly do not use your visit to an ailing person to feed political opportunism," Parrikar said.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 11:38 PM IST

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