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Rahul alleges defence minister lied in Parliament on HAL; Sitharaman says he is misleading country

twitter-logoPTI | January 6, 2019 | Updated 21:43 IST

(Eds: Updating with HAL reax) New Delhi, Jan 6 (PTI) Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Sunday alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman "lied" in Parliament that government orders worth Rs one lakh crore were provided to HAL, while demanding that she should either place the documents in support of her statement in the House or resign.           Sitharaman hit back at the allegation saying it is a matter of "shame" that the Congress chief was "misleading" the country without fully understanding the issue. Gandhi's attack came after a media report claimed that "not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now". The media report cited senior HAL management officials in order to back its claim. "When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM's Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament," Gandhi tweeted. "Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign," he said. Suggesting that Gandhi jumped the gun while making the charges following a media report, Sitharaman's office tweeted that Gandhi should "start from ABCs" and read the complete report before commenting on it. "It's a shame that the president of @INCIndia is misleading the nation. HAL has signed contracts worth Rs 26570.8 Cr (Between 2014 and 2018) and contracts worth Rs 73000 Cr are in the pipeline. Will @RahulGandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house?," Sitharaman tweeted from the defence minister's official handle. There was another report that said HAL was forced to borrow money to pay salaries to its employees. Meanwhile, in a tweet, HAL said the contracts for light combat aircraft and light combat helicopters are "in advanced stages" and that it has taken overdraft of Rs 962 crore. "In view of the various media reports on HAL,following is clarified: HAL has taken overdraft of Rs 962 crores. With anticipated collection upto March, the cash position is expected to improve. Orders for LCA Mk1 A (83) & LCH (15) are in advanced stages," it said. Sitharaman also tweeted details of contract awarded to HAL since 2014 when BJP came to power. According to her, the Rs 49,797 crore contract to HAL for supply of 83 light combat aircraft Tejas to the Indian Air Force was at the stage of technical evaluation stage. Another contract, whose tentative size is Rs 20,000 crore, for supply of a batch of Kamov Ka 226 T helicopters was also in the similar stage. Sitharaman also pointed out that the media report said that "LS (Lok Sabha) record shows" that she did not claim the orders were signed and mentioned that they were in the works. Sitharaman made the remarks about HAL during her reply to debate on Rafale deal in Lok Sabha on Friday. The Congress has been targeting the government, alleging that it denied the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) an offset contract under the Rafale fighter jets deal with France, a charge the government has denied. The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has accused the Congress of not supporting HAL during its rule and asserted that the government is now strengthening the defence public sector undertaking. Gandhi had on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of "weakening" HAL to help his "suit-boot" friend. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the Congress will press for Sitharaman's resignation in case she fails to substantiate her claim in Parliament that HAL was given contracts worth Rs one lakh crore. If the government is claiming that they have given contracts worth crores to HAL then why does that the PSU have to borrow in order to pay their staff, Tewari said. “It just does not add up,” he said.  Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala earlier on Sunday tweeted: "The Lying Defence Minister's Lies Get Exposed! Defence Minister claimed that procurement orders worth Rs 1 Lakh Crore provided to HAL! HAL says Not a SINGLE PAISA has come, as Not a SINGLE ORDER has been signed!" "For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of Rs 1000 Cr to pay salaries!," he added. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma accused the defence minister of putting up a "theatrical performance" in the Lok Sabha. The defence minister is "who put up a theatrical performance in the LS, is presenting a pathetic picture by reducing her office into an apologist for Shri @narendramodi, who is personally complicit in the #RafaleScam," he tweeted. "2 days left for Parliament, challenge the PM answer our questions, Sharma said. "The Defence Minister is acting as a spokesperson of Ambani-Dassault JV by running down HAL to justify the denial of transfer of technology and the manufacture of 108 Rafale aircrafts in India. She is trying to win kudos from a PM who is already in the departure lounge," he tweeted. In a scathing attack at Gandhi, BJP leader and Union minister Smriti Irani accused him of "hurting" Parliament's and a woman minister's (Sitharaman) dignity by "winking" in the Lok Sabha as the defence minister replied to the Rafale debate on Friday. "We do not expect values from him but we do hope that he maintains the dignity of Parliament," Irani told a press conference. She was responding to questions about Gandhi's claim in a tweet Sunday that Sitharaman had "lied" in her reply and also about his another tweet, alleging that Modi is an "incompetent man". PTI ASK/MPB KR ANB SMN SMN

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