'Bofors brought Cong down, Rafale will bring Modi back'
New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi Friday said if his party comes to power in 2019, a criminal investigation will be launched into the Rafale deal and those found guilty will be punished.
Speaking to the media outside Parliament ahead of the government's reply in Lok Sabha over the issue, he accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of running away from the debate and posed a series of questions to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
"Let me tell you that if we come to power in 2019, then there will be (an) investigation (into the Rafale deal). There will be a criminal investigation and the people responsible will be punished," Gandhi told reporters.
He added that the Supreme Court had said in its judgement that inquiring into the Rafale deal is not in its jurisdiction, but nowhere did it say that an inquiry should not be held.
"We and the entire opposition want that when the defence minister speaks on the prime minister's behalf, the questions raised by us should be answered," the Congress chief said.
Gandhi said his questions were what the youngsters were asking Modi.
"Who decided to raise the price of the aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore? There has to be a clear-cut answer, no confusion....," he said.
Gandhi also questioned the decision to reduce the number of aircraft to be bought from 126 to 36.
In a fierce counter-attack on the Congress, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday alleged that the party stalled the deal when it was in power as it "didn't get money" and ignored national security.
During her nearly two-hour-long reply to a discussion on Rafale issue in Lok Sabha, Sitharaman accused the Congress of resorting to falsehood to mislead the country and gave "point-by-point" rebuttal to opposition's allegations including on price of the fighter aircraft and HAL not getting the offset contract.
"Defence Ministry has been functioning without dalals (middlemen) during five years of (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. Rafale is a decision in the national interest.
"I don't want to talk about Bofors because that is a scam and not Rafale. Bofors brought you down. Rafale will bring Modi back to have a new and transforming India and remove corruption which is stinking around the Congress," the Minister said.
Countering the Congress' charge, she said that it was the Indian Air Force which suggested that the government buy two squadrons or 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition instead of 18, as was planned to be purchased under the Congress-led UPA government.