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Rafale deal: Congress 'flogging a dead horse', says Nirmala Sitharaman

"They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference," says the Defence Minister.

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Rafale deal: Congress 'flogging a dead horse', says Nirmala Sitharaman

After Congress President Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack on PM Modi on the Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said then defence minister Manohar Parrikar tried to assuage the concerns of the defence secretary. Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had accused the Prime Minister's Office of holding parallel discussions with the French side over the Rafale deal despite the Ministry of Defence's (MoD) clear opposition to it. Retorting on the accusation, Nirmala Sitharaman, making a suo motu statement in Parliament said: "Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar ji replied to that MoD note that 'remain calm', 'nothing to worry', everything is going alright."

"They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference," the minister said during the Zero Hour. Accusing the Congress of not working in the interests of the Indian Air Force, she said the Opposition was playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests.

Also read: Businesses fear Rahul Gandhi's guaranteed income plan, see higher taxes

Throwing the ball in the Congress' court, Sitharaman accused the Congress- formed NAC, led by former party president Sonia Gandhi, of "interference". "Now, what do you call the NAC led by Sonia Gandhi's interference in earlier PMO? What was that?" she asked. "Was that not interference?"

Then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's reply to the MoD, a document accessed by news agency ANI, states that "Defence Secretary (G Mohan) may resolve the matter in consultation with Principal Secretary to PM". The reply further says that "it appears the PMO and the French President office are monitoring the progress of the issue which was an outcome of the summit meeting. Para 5 appears to be an overreaction".

On The Hindu report claiming to have access to the dissenting letter by the MoD, Sitharaman said: "A newspaper published a file noting written by Defence Secretary. If a newspaper publishes a noting then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister's reply as well."

Earlier, Congress president said that PM Modi "himself robbed Air Force's Rs 30,000 crore and gave it to Anil Ambani". "We have been raising this since 1 year. Now a report has come where Defence Ministry officials say that the PM was holding parallel negotiations with France government," said Rahul Gandhi.

He also shared a letter, duly signed by Deputy Secretary (Air-II), SK Sharma, claiming the PMO was holding parallel discussions with the French team. "It is, therefore, clear that such parallel discussions by the PMO have weakened the negotiating positions of MoD and Indian Negotiating Team. We may advise PMO that any officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays with the officers of the French government," says the letter.

Edited by Manoj Sharma

Also read: Rahul Gandhi's fresh attack: 'PM Modi bypassed Rafale talks despite defence ministry's opposition'

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