The Congress Wednesday released a purported audio clip of a Goa minister on Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's alleged claim of a file on Rafale deal "lying in his bedroom", igniting a fresh political firestorm as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley crossed swords with its chief Rahul Gandhi.
Jaitley also whipped out a dialogue from a James Bond film to accuse Gandhi of peddling "lies" and "falsehood" in the Lok Sabha after the Congress president made an attempt to play the unverified audio tape purportedly of the minister Vishwajit Rane telling an unidentified person regarding the alleged claim by Parrikar at a Cabinet meeting last week.
Launching a blistering attack on the government, Gandhi targeted Narendra Modi saying he "does not have guts" to face questions in Parliament. He also alleged that Parrikar is "blackmailing" the prime minister.
The Congress earlier in the day demanded answers from Modi on Parrikar's purported claim and asked if this was the reason why a joint parliamentary committee(JPC) probe was not being ordered.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala came out with a conversation purportedly between Rane and another person regarding the alleged claim by Parrikar.
Rane purportedly can be heard saying that during a Goa cabinet meeting last week Parrikar allegedly stated he had an entire file and all documents relating to the Rafale deal lying in his bedroom, Surjewala claimed, playing the conversation for the media outside Parliament.
He quoted Rane as saying, "The chief minister made a very interesting statement, that I have all the information of Rafale in my bedroom....that means he is holding them to ransom. He said it is in my bedroom here only in my flat, each and every document on Rafale."
However, there was no confirmation on whether it was the voice of Rane in the audio.
Parrikar on his part termed the audio clip as a desperate attempt to fabricate facts after the Supreme Court exposed the "lies" of the opposition party.
No such discussion as cited in the audio clip ever came up during the Cabinet or any other meeting, said Parrikar, who was the defence minister when India and France signed a deal for the purchase of fighter aircraft from France.
Later speaking to reporters, Rahul Gandhi claimed the tape is "authentic" and that there might be many such "tapes".
"The Goa minister is saying clearly that Parrikar ji said in a cabinet meeting that he has a complete file on Rafale deal with all details and therefore, he can't be disturbed. There may be other such audio tapes," said the Congress president.
"What Parrikar is essentially doing is threatening the prime minister and blackmailing him in a way," Gandhi alleged. "We have been raising this for a long time. Question is what information is there in Parrikar's bedroom and what files are there and what could be the impact on Narendra Modi."
As tempers ran high in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said the tape is "false and fabricated", asking the Congress president if he can authenticate it. He also asserted that Gandhi may have to face privilege motion and even expulsion in case the tape turns out to be fabricated.
Following Gandhi's hard-hitting attack on the government, Jaitley launched a counter-offensive as he referred to alleged defence scams during the Congress rule and said "conspirators" of past defence scams had the "audacity" to target the Modi dispensation.
He also ruled out a JPC probe- a demand made by most opposition leaders, including Gandhi- saying there was no need for it as the Supreme Court has already satisfied its "conscience" on the issue.
Attacking the Congress president, he said "There are some people who have a natural dislike for truth. Every word spoken for the last six months on this subject, including in this House (by them) are false....He has a legacy of speaking falsehood".
The House witnessed high drama after Gandhi sought the Speaker's permission to play the purported audio tape of Rane.
Amid an uproar, which caused brief adjournment of the House proceedings, Gandhi said he would not play it and authenticate it, prompting Jaitley to say that he was "scared" as he knew it was false.
"This man lies and lies repeatedly," Jaitley said.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan also disallowed Gandhi's request to play the clip.
Gandhi claimed BJP members were "terrified" of the clip
Rane has already termed the tape "fabricated", Jaitley said.
In his speech, Gandhi referred to Modi's comments in an interview telecast yesterday that no personal allegation was levelled against him in the matter and said this was not true as the "entire nation" is asking him a direct question on the contract for purchase of fighter aircraft.
"He (Modi) spoke for 90 minutes in a staged interview but still did not answer questions on the Rafale issue... He does not have the guts to come to Parliament and confront questions (on Rafale) and hides in his room."
"We demand a JPC probe into matter. There is no reason for BJP leaders to feel afraid. The country will get to know that Modi put Rs 30,000 crore in the pockets of 'double A'. The contract was snatched from HAL (a government-run unit)," Gandhi said, alleging corruption in the contract.
'Double A' was an apparent reference to Anil Ambani, whom Gandhi repeatedly referred to in his speech before Mahajan asked him not to name him as he is not a member of the House.
Hitting back, Jaitley said "it is a tragedy that the grand old party which was headed by the legends in the past is now headed by a gentleman who doesn't have basic understanding of combat aircraft."
He then raked up the Bofors, AgustaWestland and National Herald cases. "If there was one case", he said, "I may have given that family [the Nehru-Gandhi family] the benefit of doubt".
"Three is a bit two much," Jaitley and brought up a quote from a James Bond film.
"I am sure Shri Rahul Gandhi, in his earlier days, was seeing the James Bond films," Jaitley said. "James Bond has said: If it is once, it's a happenstance, it can happen. If it is twice, it is a coincidence. And if it is thrice, it's a conspiracy -- Congress president is doing the same,"
Saugata Roy of the Trinamool Congress was quick to take a dig at Jaitley for what he said was wrongly quoting Bond, saying the movie's hero had said that if it happens for the third time, then it is enemy action, and not conspiracy as the senior BJP leader claimed.
"Jaitley is losing his touch and his memory is failing him," Roy said.