After sparring on twitter with Rahul Gandhi, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today emphasized in parliament that her statement on orders worth Rs 1 lakh crore for state-run defence manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was not false, as the Congress chief alleges.
“I will like to set all doubts to rest by adding that I have received confirmation from Hal that during 2014-2018 contracts amounting to 26, 570.80 crore of rupees have already been signed with HAL and orders approximately 73,000 crore of rupees are in the pipeline the details of these orders are placed,” the Defence Minister said.
Reports on HAL’s financial troubles have been seized by the Congress, which accuses the government of depriving the company of a lucrative contract in the Rafale deal, just to help industrialist Anil Ambani.
“The documents clearly confirm the correctness of my statement…and the doubts raised in this regard are incorrect and misleading,” she said.
On Friday, Ms Sitharaman had said in her reply to the Rafale debate that the government had given extensive contracts to HAL worth Rs 1 lakh crore but the Congress was “shedding crocodile tears”. Rahul Gandhi had asked her to clarify or resign after a report in the Times of India suggested that no actual orders had been placed and HAL was struggling even to pay its employees.
After her clarification, Rahul Gandhi again accused her of a “direct jhooth (lie)”. The actual money that HAL was expecting was only Rs 26,570 crore, he said. “The rest about orders worth Rs 73,000 crore is bakwas (nonsense). Technical Evaluation Committee doesn’t mean an order,” the Congress president said.
Accusing the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister of failing to answer his “direct” questions, Gandhi said, “I ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nirmala Sitharaman – when Modi-ji did bypass surgery (on the deal for 126 jets negotiated by the previous Congress government) and prepared a new contract for 36 fighters, did any senior defence ministry, air force officials object to PM Modi’s interference? Yes or no?”
The Congress alleges that the government signed an overpriced deal for 36 Rafale jets with France’s Dassault to benefit debt-hit Anil Ambani’s inexperienced defence firm at the cost of HAL, which, the party says, is in a financial warp.