Compounding the setback dealt to Congress president Rahul Gandhi by the Supreme Court which last week dismissed all petitions seeking a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal, Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF) has called the apex court's judgment "a very fine judgment".
Speaking at a news briefing held at Jodhpur airbase on Wednesday, IAF Chief Dhanoa said the following in response to the question 'Do you think there was a need for the Rafale':
"Who has said that we don't need Rafale? We are saying we need it. The government is saying we need it. Supreme Court has given a good judgment and even inside it has said that the Air Force needs it, that it took so long for it to arrive. Our regional adversaries or neighbours, whatever you may call them, they have upgraded."
He added, "Even the SC has given a very fine judgment. Some very fine comments have been given by the Finance Minister and the Raksha Mantri."
In a shocker, minutes after Republic TV broke the story, the Congress launched an attack at the IAF chief, accusing him of lying. Former Union Minister Veerappa Moily said:
"IAF Chief is not fine. He is lying and suppressing facts. He had visited HAL in Bangalore and considered it as a competent authority. Now for him to say that the deal is fine, I don't know what to say."
In response to this, the BJP's IT cell head Amit Malviya hit out, tweeting:
Malviya's tweet throws into sharp relief just how insistent the Congress has been over its allegations that the inter-governmental deal between India and France to purchase 36 Rafale multi-role fighters entails a scam. Congress president Rahul Gandhi had made it a major poll plank ahead of the assembly elections in five states and appears set to continue with it into 2019. In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's verdict, speaking at the Republic Summit, BJP chief Amit Shah justified his party holding 70 news briefings to call out the Congress for its allegations and asked Rahul Gandhi to reveal his source for the information based on which the allegations were made. Meanwhile, speaking at the same forum, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the Congress campaign immature, highlighting how Rahul Gandhi had compared the UPA's provisional price for a non-weaponised Rafale jet with the current price of a weaponised jet.