Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday dismissed the allegations by the Congress on the Rafale deal and said that the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Dassault couldn't agree on production terms during the era of UPA government.
“The Deal didn't happen during the UPA. What also didn't happen during the UPA was that between HAL and Dassault they couldn't agree on production terms. So HAL and Rafale couldn't go together. Doesn't that very clearly say who didn't go together with HAL, under which government did that happen,’ Sitharaman was quoted by ANI as saying.
Sitharaman’s remark came hours after former defence minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony, accused her of "suppressing facts" on the Rafale deal and denied his intervention back in 2013.
Earlier in the day, Antony rejected the charge levelled by Sitharaman that an unprecedented intervention by him in 2013 had put the "final nail in the coffin" when the cost negotiation committee was giving final touches to the deal, saying the allegations were completely false and Sitharaman was deliberately suppressing the facts.
"Her allegations are completely false and she is deliberately suppressing the facts," Antony said.
Antony also accused Sitharaman of trying to tarnish the image of public-sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) both nationally and globally.
The former defence minister also asked if the price of the Rafale fighter jets were cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA and why the government bought 36 aircrafts instead of 126 from the French company.
"The Congress demands that the Modi government publish the price of the Congress-UPA's deal of 126 aircrafts and the price of its 36 Rafale deal, including per aircraft price of the same, to clear the doubts of the people and let the nation decide who is correct," he said, adding that Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claimed that in the new agreement, the price is nine per cent cheaper than it was in the UPA deal. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it is 20 per cent cheaper and an IAF officer said it is 40 per cent cheaper, then "why did they not buy more than 126 if it was cheaper?" Antony asked.
Sitharaman hit back at the Congress and said the Narendra Modi-led NDA government was getting the Rafale fighter jets at a rate nine per cent cheaper than what the UPA dispensation had agreed upon.
"We have responded saying your basic price and the basic price that I am getting at, when compared with all the escalation and other things, is 9 per cent cheaper," the defence minister said.
The UPA government started negotiating in 2012 with French firm Dassault Aviation to buy 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA).
The plan was for Dassault Aviation to supply 18 Rafale jets in fly-away condition while 108 aircraft were to be manufactured in India by the company along with HAL. However, the deal could not be sealed.
(With inputs from agencies)