Terming the Congress charges false and based on half-truths, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has denied that the Rafale deal had snatched jobs from the Indian aerospace major Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL).
“There is no truth in the Congress allegations on the Rafale deal as they are based on falsehood and half-truths. The question of taking away jobs from HAL does not arise as the UPA government had no deal with its maker Dassault Aviation,” Sitharaman told reporters here on Sunday.
Accusing the previous Congress-led UPA government of ignoring the needs of the Indian Air Force (IAF) whose squadron strength has depleted to 33 from 42, Sitharaman said the inter-government agreement on Rafale was much better than what was proposed in the non-deal of the previous regime.
“The intent of the agreement was very well stated in the joint statement that it shall be a better deal in every way,” asserted Sitharaman.
The statement was given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015, when the deal was signed for the sale of 36 Rafale jets by its French maker Dassault Aviation.
Blaming the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for not finalizing the deal with Dassault during its tenure, the Defence Minister said the Congress campaign on Rafale was irresponsible and baseless, as its government failed to seal the deal with HAL.
“There were only statements but no action during the UPA period. If we have taken away the jobs, let the Congress show the agreement its then government had with the HAL on Rafale,” reiterated Sitharaman.
Noting that the government was proud of the city-based defense behemoth (HAL), the Minister said though the IAF ordered 40 Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas between 2006-10, only six were delivered by 2014.
“After our government came into being, we doubled HAL’s production capacity to 16 Tejas a year. What did the Congress government do during its tenure that it is shedding crocodile tears for HAL now?” she pointed out.
As the IAF has ordered 83 more Tejas, the government has given HAL Rs 20,000 crore to enhance its production capacity to make more LCAs, added Sitharaman.