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Panel divided on protests by Congress over aircraft purchase, Modi accused of breaching defence procurement procedure

Amid continuing chaos and more than 90 minutes of deafening opposition protest, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hit out at the Congress, accusing the party of dividing India in 1947. Lashing out at the Congress for “brainwashing” people into thinking that the Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru brought democracy to the country, Modi – during what was supposed to be his motion of thanks to the president’s address – accused the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of dividing India at Independence.

“To this day, 125 crore Indians are paying the price for your sins. You divided India keeping elections in mind, you closed parliament’s doors without heeding the people’s wishes, the seeds you sowed at that time, their fruits are being reaped even to this day,” Modi said.

“It is the country’s misfortune that Congress leaders feel ‘Bharat’, the nation, was born on August 15, 1947, as if there was no country before this. I’m shocked, do I call it ignorance, or lack of understanding, when it is said Nehru and the Congress gave India democracy?” he added.

Congress leaders and other opposition parties, on the other hand, continued their protest over various issues – including the deal on the Rafale twin-engine fighter jetplane with the government of France.

Alleging that there is corruption in the deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “Modiji had personally gone to Paris. Personally, the deal was changed. All of India knows it. And the defence minister is saying she will not inform India, martyrs and their relatives about the money spent on buying these aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is a scam.”

So while the Congress kept claiming that the Modi government’s “lame duck diversionary tactics on the Rafale deal” further intensifies the mystery, APN’s popular debate show Mudda took up these issues – with anchor Anant Tiyagi discussing with panellists the legitimacy of either party’s accusations.

Wednesday’s debate was joined by eminent persons including BJP spokesperson Ashok Thakur, Congress spokesperson Dr Hilal Naqvi, foreign affairs expert Dr Subhra Kamal Dutta, Samajwadi Party leader Manoj Yadav, defence expert Colonel PK Sehgal (retired) and APN consultant editor Govind Pant Raju.

Why did the prime minister not take the mandatory prior approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security before deciding to purchase the Rafale aircrafts from France, asked Naqvi. Modi has thus breached the mandatory defence procurement procedure by taking his decision unilaterally, he said. Naqvi also wondered why Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said she won’t share any details of the money spent on buying the aircraft.

Colonel Sehgal, however, claimed that the opposition is either poorly informed about the deal or intentionally trying to distract people with false accusations. Stating that most arms deal during the UPA regime are under the scanner for graft, he held that there is enough transparency in the Rafale deal and that no question of corruption should be raised.

Raju felt that there are little chances that the deal was struck without the knowledge of the cabinet committee. He felt that the opposition is wrong on this one and some of its leaders should have raised their questions in parliament rather than speaking about it on social networking platforms or to the media.

Meanwhile, Sitharaman, in her reply to parliament, claimed that the secrecy pact between the governments of India and France prevented her from divulging details.

“As per Article-10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) between the Government of India and the Government of France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between the two nations in 2008,” she said.

Compiled by Priyam Mukhopadhyay

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