In yet another scathing attack on the Congress-led Opposition's baseless Rafale allegations, Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the media report on the fighter plane deal as "flogging a dead horse". The opposition created an uproar in the Lower house of the Parliament over the Rafale matter during the ongoing Budget session to which the Raksha Mantri made suo moto statement on the issue in the House.
Amid the session, Congress, TMC and TDP leaders jumped in the well shouting slogans and showing placards referring to a media report which claimed that the Prime Minister's Office had interfered in price negotiations in the multi-billion deal to procure Rafale jets. Opposition members were heard shouting slogans demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue. Opposition parties also demanded constitution of a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the Rafale jet deal.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had to asked the slogan shouting members to go to their seats as she would allow them to speak on the matter.
Amid the shouting and sloganeering, Sitharaman entered the House and made a suo motu statement.
"They are flogging a dead horse. Periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference," she said during the Zero Hour. The Defence Minister charged the opposition with playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests and not working in the interests of the Indian Air Force.
Referring to the report, which claimed that the then Defence Secretary had objected to the PMO allegedly conducting price negotiations with the French company, Sitharaman said the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had replied to the letter asking the official to remain "calm" as everything was "alright".
Sitharaman also alleged that the then Chairperson of the National Advisory Council Sonia Gandhi used to run the PMO regularly during the UPA regime.
"Was that not interference?," she asked.
Referring to the media report, Saugata Roy (TMC) alleged that parallel negotiations were on when the defence ministry's negotiating committee was handling the matter. He also alleged that "notorious" National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was conducting parallel negotiations in Paris, undermining the bargaining power of the government.
"It concerns national security...(Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is destroying the defence of the country and undermining negotiations...Why PMO interfered?. Rafale stands out to be a biggest scandal," he charged.
(With ANI inputs)