The Lok Sabha on Wednesday witnessed an acrimonious debate on the Rafale fighter deal, with Congress President Rahul Gandhi initiating the discussion. He tried to stir up a fresh controversy by offering to "play inside the House" an audio clip purportedly between the Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane and a local journalist, in which the former is said to have referred to the Rafale deal. Both Rane and Goa CM Manohar Parrikar have denied this.
Pointedly when asked by the Speaker whether he was ready to authenticate the audio conversation, Rahul Gandhi backed out. It seems he was not sure whether the audio clip was genuine or not. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later rightly said that Rahul declined to authenticate because he knows that the tape is "false and fabricated".
In his speech, Rahul repeated the same allegations that he had been making for nearly 600 times in the last six months. He repeated his allegation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a bounty of Rs 30,000 crores to industrialist Anil Ambani, after buying Rafale aircraft at, what he called, inflated prices.
In the last six months, PM Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have explained the Rafale deal in details both inside and outside Parliament, but Rahul continued to repeat his allegations. The matter went to the Supreme Court, where experienced luminaries like Yashwant Sinha, Prashant Bhushan and Arun Shourie took part in the hearing. After hearing all the parties, the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the deal. And yet, Rahul Gandhi is persistently repeating his allegations.
Till Tuesday, Rahul had been alleging that the government was running away from a debate inside the House, but on Wednesday, he was given full freedom to make his points in the debate. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later succinctly replied to each and every allegation levelled by Rahul Gandhi. In the evening, Rahul again addressed a press conference and repeated the same allegations. He had nothing new to add.
The question now is why Rahul Gandhi is doing this. There seems to be one valid reason. In the last 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP had decimated the Congress at the hustings on the issue of corruption. Prime Minister Modi says, there has not been a single major charge of corruption against his government in the last four and a half years.
By repeating his allegations, Rahul is trying hard so that at least one corruption charge against the Modi government could stick. I personally know several senior Congress leaders who have confided to me in private that the Rafale controversy is having no effect on the electorate, and it would be difficult to make any corruption charge stick against Modi. They want a change in the party's poll strategy.
Watch the full episode here:
Rafale debate witnesses fireworks in Lok Sabha as Arun Jaitley, Rahul Gandhi clash over fighter jet deal
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