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Rafale deal: Rahul steps up attack on PM Modi, BJP calls it 'desparation, lies and misrepresentation'

Jan 2 (AZINS) The BJP Wednesday dubbed Rahul Gandhi's attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi as an exercise in "desperation", claiming the Congress president could not make any point in Parliament during the Rafale debate and ended up "exposing" himself again at his press conference later.

Senior party leader and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told Gandhi that there is a limit to telling lies and that he should stop playing with national security."Gandhi's press conference was all about his desperation, lies and misrepresentation. He could not make any good point in Parliament and was exposed completely for his complete lack of understanding of issues. To make up for that he held a press conference and exposed himself again," he said.

That Gandhi also had a "problem" with the journalist who interviewed Modi underlines his "irritation and utter desperation", Prasad added.In his attack on Modi over the Rafale issue, Gandhi used a purported audio clip to allege that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is "blackmailing" the prime minister with a file on the Rs 58,000 crore fighter jet deal "lying in his bedroom".

The BJP had rejected the purported clip as fabricated. Stepping up attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale issue, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday used a purported audio clip to allege that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is "blackmailing and threatening" Modi with a file on the Rs 58,000 crore jet deal "lying in his bedroom".

Citing an audio clip of a conversation purportedly of Goa minister Vishwajit Rane, Gandhi said he can be heard clearly as saying that Parrikar told his cabinet during a meeting that all documents relating to the Rafale deal were with him. Asserting that the audio was authentic, Gandhi indicated that there may be more such tapes and dismissed denials by Parrikar and his minister that the clip was "fabricated".

Addressing a press conference hours after he spoke on the issue in Lok Sabha, Gandhi also dared Modi to have a one-on-one debate of just 20 minutes on the Rafale matter, saying the truth will come out. He also alleged that the prime minister does not have guts to face questions.Demanding answers from Modi on Parrikar's purported claim, Gandhi asked if this was the reason why a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe was not being ordered into the deal. He said the entire country wants Modi to answer these questions.

"The Goa minister is saying clearly that Parrikar ji said in a cabinet meeting that he has a complete file on Rafale deal with all details and therefore, he can't be disturbed. There may be other such audio tapes," said the Congress chief.

The Congress along with other opposition parties are demanding a JPC to probe the Rs 58,000 crore fighter jet deal."What Parrikar is doing is threatening the Prime Minister and blackmailing him in a way. We have been raising this for a long time. The question is what information is there in Parrikar's bedroom and what files are there and what impact it has on Narendra Modi," Gandhi alleged.

Asked whether a probe would be ordered in the Rafale matter if Congress comes to power, Gandhi said it would be done "cent per cent".He also asked as to who raised the price of Rafale aircraft from Rs 526 crore to Rs 1,600 crore.

The Congress chief also attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and alleged that there were "inconsistencies" in statements by him and others in the government. Asked about Jaitley's claim that his knowledge about aircraft is limited, Gandhi said he was a pilot even though his licence was not current.

"Jaitley has himself said this is a Rs 58,000 crore deal and if we divide it by 36, it will be Rs 1600 crore. That's how the figure of Rs 526 crore (for price of one aircraft) comes. It is not our number but yours (the government's)," Gandhi said. Modi should also answer what objections were raised by the Indian Air Force or by the Defence Ministry, if there were any, on the inflated price of the aircraft.

Also if the government was getting a lower price than what was negotiated by the Congress-led UPA, then why the number of planes were reduced from 126 to 36, he added.

"Now Parrikar says all details are in his bedroom. Truth can't be kept hidden The more you try to hide the truth, new facts will come out," Gandhi said."The person who went to France with all pomp and show, he can't reply and stand in Parliament, but it is the finance minister who is standing in defence and that too is hollow," the Congress chief said while referring to Modi's France visit in 2015 when he announced the deal.

Reiterating his allegation that "chowkidar chor hai", Gandhi said a JPC probe would clearly throw two names -- Anil Ambani and Narendra Modi -- and will also bring out the fact that Ambani, who is under debt of Rs 45,000 crore, has been given a contract of Rs 30,000 crore. He said Jaitley told Parliament that the Congress does not understand the difference between a fully loaded aircraft and a bare one, but the 2007 'request for proposal' shows that additional installations were included.

The country knows that Modi changed the contract and "he can go home during a debate (in Parliament), but he cannot hide", the Congress chief said.On the government's claim that the Supreme Court had put to rest all objections raised by the Congress, Gandhi said the court has observed that this was not in its jurisdiction to investigate, but has not ruled that there should not be any probe, including the JPC into the alleged corruption in the deal.

"The Supreme Court is not saying there is no corruption in the Rafale deal," he said.Asked why he did not authenticate the audio clip in Lok Sabha, he said when the Speaker did not allow him to play the tape, the question of its authenticity did not arise.

Asked how he could say this tape was authentic when it was being dismissed as "fake" and "fabricated", he said, "Do you think that Parrikar or Rane won't deny it?" Asserting that the Rafale jet is a good aircraft, he said the biggest issue is that the deal for the aircraft, which was to be made in India to boost the country's manufacturing and defence capabilities, was changed to benefit "Modi's friend".

Gandhi said former french president Francois Hollande had also talked about the Indian prime minister directly wanting to have Ambani and keeping HAL aside, and asked whether the French leader was lying. Modi should answer who other than him took this decision, Gandhi added.  "All these questions are being asked by the nation. I want that Modi replies all these questions and if he can give a credible answer, that's good," he said.