After Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Resign’ Demand, Nirmala Sitharaman’s Comeback

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New Delhi: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Sunday suggested that Rahul Gandhi had jumped the gun when he demanded that she either prove her claims of orders to the tune of Rs. 1 lakh crore for defence manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, or resign.

The Congress chief, the minister said, should “start from ABCs” and “read the full report” before commenting on it. In her exhaustive reply to the debate on Rafale fighter jet deal in Parliament on Friday, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had rebutted Congress claims of the government depriving the state-run HAL to benefit Anil Ambani’s rookie defence firm.

Later, a national media reported that though the process of ordering has been started, no actual orders have been placed yet.

Quoting the report, Mr Gandhi had tweeted: “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. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL.”

During the discussion on Rafale in Lok Sabha on Friday, Ms Sitharaman said the government has given extensive contracts to HAL. “The Congress is shedding crocodile tears for HAL. The Congress government gave 53 waivers to HAL… We have given contracts worth Rs. 1 lakh crore,” the Defence minister had said.

The orders, she said were in the pipeline. The projects are being cleared in phases – they have been cleared by the Acceptance of Necessity and the Defence Acquisition Committee stages.

Currently HAL is working on repeat orders for Su-30s, Tejas Mk-1, Advanced Light Helicopters, Light Combat Helicopters and the Mirage 2000 upgrade. Media reports have claimed HAL, grappling with low finances, had to borrow money to pay its employees’ salaries.

In a tweet today, senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said: “The Lying Defence Minister’s Lies Gets Exposed! Def Min claimed that procurement orders worth Rs. 1 Lakh Cr 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!”

The Congress has accused the government of accepting an overpriced contract to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault to benefit Anil Ambani’s rookie defence firm. During last week’s debate, Rahul Gandhi had repeated his allegation that the NDA government gypped the country of Rs. 30,000 crore by ensuring Mr Ambani gets the offset contract in the Rafale deal.

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