The Supreme Court order on Friday dismissing pleas challenging the Rafale fighter jet deal enthused the top leadership of the Narendra Modi government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to launch an attack on Congress president Rahul Gandhi for indulging in “falsehoods” on the issue.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, BJP chief Amit Shah, party chief ministers and other leaders demanded that Gandhi apologise for misleading the nation in the light of the Supreme Court order. “Rafale deal has protected both security and commercial interest of India. Allegations on Rafale was fiction writing that was compromising national security,” Jaitley said.
However, by evening Gandhi responded by pointing out what he termed as inconsistencies in the Supreme Court judgement. Addressing a press conference with Congress party leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge by his side, Gandhi pointed to paragraph 25 of the Supreme Court verdict. Gandhi said it was intriguing that paragraph 25 of the Supreme Court has cited a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report, which the order has stated was shared with the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
Both Gandhi and Kharge, who is the chairman of the PAC, asserted there was no such CAG report submitted to the PAC. Other opposition members of the PAC, including Bhartruhari Mahtab of the Biju Janata Dal, have also said the committee has not been given any report on Rafale deal by the CAG. Kharge said he asked one of the deputy CAGs whether the auditor had prepared any such report, and was told there was no such report.
Congress leaders said they would raise the issue in Parliament on Monday. Gandhi reiterated the Congress' demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the fighter jet deal and claimed that if it was conducted, names of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and businessman Anil Ambani will come to the fore. "Where has that report gone? Is it with some other PAC that PM Modi has set up in some other country," Gandhi asked in a dig at the government. He also accused the Modi government of destroying "all institutions".
BJP chief Shah Friday described the Supreme Court order as a "victory of truth" and demanded an apology from Congress chief Rahul Gandhi. The Supreme Court's decision is slap on the face of those who had alleged corruption, Shah said. To a question about the Congress demand of JPC into the deal, Jaitley said only a judicial body can carry out such an investigation as there has been experience in the past of JPCs working on partisan lines. The SC verdict is conclusive and leaves no scope of any doubt on the deal, he said.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the nation needs to know who “perpetrated such a huge fraud to hoodwink on the Supreme Court” by convincing it about a non-existent report.
Other opposition parties also demanded a JPC probe into the Rafale deal. "We respect the Supreme Court order, but the questions -- like how a 12-day-old company became an offset partner in the Rafale deal -- can be answered only through a (joint) parliamentary committee probe," party Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said.
"The truth about the Rafale scam will only come out through the mechanism of a JPC. We reiterate our long-standing demand for a JPC. Modi's refusal to have a JPC is the biggest evidence of guilt," Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted.