**New Delhi: ** Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” about the contracts given to HAL and challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a debate on the Rafale deal.
Describing Sitharaman as a “spokesperson of Narendra Modi”, he said only contracts worth Rs 26,570 crore have been given to the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd and not Rs 1 lakh crore “as stated” by the Minister while replying to a debate in the Lok Sabha last week on the deal to purchase fighter jets from France.
“She spoke a clear lie in Parliament. Contracts of Rs 26,570 crore have been given to HAL. Remarks that more contracts of Rs 73,000 crore have been given is a total sham,” Gandhi told reporters in Parliament House complex.
He said the Modi government had given Dassault Aviation Rs 20,000 crore though they had not delivered a single Rafale aircraft but HAL, which had delivered on its orders including helicopters, was awaiting payment of Rs 15,700 crore. He accused the government of trying to wreck HAL.
Gandhi also accused Modi of doing “bypass surgery” on the Rafale deal and said Sitharaman should give a “yes” or “no” answer to his question.
“I am asking Prime Minister and Defence Minister: Did officials of Air Force, Defence Ministry say that Narendra Modi had interfered in the deal,” he said.
The Congress chief said when he raised the question in Parliament, Sitharaman started talking about her middle class background which was “also not true”.
He accused Modi of being scared of facing Parliament.
“The chowkidar of the country is scared to face Parliament. He cannot stand in a Rafale debate. Give me 15 minutes with Narendra Modi, the whole country will know (the truth),” he said.