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‘Ready for debate, decide a time’: Congress accepts Govt’s challenge on Rafale deal

The demand for probe comes weeks after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

SNS | New Delhi |

Congress on Monday said in Lok Sabha that it is ready for a debate on the Rafale jet deal on Wednesday.

“Jaitley ji has thrown a challenge … we are ready for a debate on January 2. Please decide a time,” Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said.

He made these remarks soon after the House gave its nod to additional gross expenditure of Rs 85,948.86 crore during the current fiscal ending March 2019.

At 2.00 pm, when the House was to take up discussion on Supplementary Demands for Grants, Kharge repeated his demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the Rafale deal.

At this, finance minister Arun Jaitley said Kharge should begin the discussion on the issue immediately and asserted that the government was ready to give a reply.

Kharge, he said, was “running away” from discussion.

Stressing that there should a discussion on Rafale deal, Jaitley said he would prove that the Congress party was spreading lies over the deal.

When the House was about to be adjourned for the day, Kharge reminded Speaker Sumitra Mahajan of the debate and sought a time for it.

Mahajan said she will decide on the timing but Kharge can’t extract a decision on the date and time immediately.

“You keep your challenges to yourself. Don’t challenge me,” an apparently peeved Mahajan said.

Earlier in the day, Congress had again sought to raise the issue of alleged scam in the Rafale deal in Lok Sabha, inviting a sharp reaction from the government stating the Opposition should not “run away” from a debate on the issue.

Congress members have been raising the matter since the start of the Winter Session of Parliament on December 11, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.

During the Zero Hour, party members trooped into the Well displaying placards and shouting slogans on the issue.

Raising the matter, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge alleged there has been a scam in the deal and asked why the government was not disclosing the price of jets.

He also demanded a JPC probe into the Rafale deal amid loud protests from BJP members.

In response, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said repeating the same lie again and again would not make it a truth.

The government is ready for discussion on the matter but why is the Congress “running way”, the minister asked.

UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi was present in the House.

The Opposition has also been raising the issue outside Parliament.

The demand for probe comes weeks after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

Read | ‘Not for court to scrutinise’: What the Supreme Court said in Rafale deal verdict

A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi dismissed all the petitions, and said no Rafale probe was required.

Taking up the petitions, the CJI said the court studied the materials carefully and interacted with defence officials, and was “satisfied” with the NDA government’s decision making process.

The court maintained that it did not find substantial matter to interfere with issue of procurement, pricing and offset partner in Rafale jet deal.

The observation by the apex court had come after the government refused to publicly divulge pricing details of the deal, saying the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review.

The verdict came as a major boost for the Narendra Modi government that had been cornered over the Rafale deal ahead of the five-state Assembly elections.

(With PTI inputs)