Contending that the Union government is showing that it is possible to run the Defence Ministry without brokers and dalal s (middlemen), Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday asked, “Why should I order a probe [into the Rafale deal]?”
Blaming the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for failing to conclude the Rafale agreement and causing a reduction in Indian Air Force (IAF) squadrons from 42 to 33, Ms. Sitharaman, at a press conference here, said, “Dassault and HAL [Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.] were talking to each other for the manufacture of Rafale [fighter jets]. But they did not conclude the agreement. They did not tie it up with HAL. If that tie-up had happened, you could have imported 18 fly-away condition Rafale [fighter jets by] now.”
She added, “They did not attend to HAL. Every year, I have given Rs. 20,000 crore worth of projects to HAL. But the previous UPA government gave just Rs. 10,000 crore projects.”
Ms. Sitharaman said, “We are only talking about getting 36 fly-away condition Rafale aircraft. As regards to the rest of the aircraft that is required for the Air Force, the government will float another global tender. All the details will be worked out.”
The Minister contended that the Congress “probably ran the Ministry of Defence with a lot of brokers and dalal s”, and “they [the Congress] were restless because they could not make money, they could not perform.”
She said the Congress was making allegations of corruption out of desperation.
‘Action will continue’
Stressing the need for surgical strikes against terrorists, Ms. Sitharaman said the government was determined that India’s operational preparedness should not be adversely affected.
“The surgical strikes happened. We did that. That is nothing to be ashamed of. My action will continue on the border,” she said.
Pointing to the events associated with the second anniversary of surgical strikes in 32 locations across the country, Ms. Sitharaman said the previous UPA government had failed to improve operational readiness of the IAF in its 10 years of rule.Alleging that the UPA government was not able to perform and had left the IAF “very worse”, Ms. Sitharaman said, “They [the UPA] are just not able to digest the facts. So [they] throw allegations.”