/Congress treating defence as punching bag or funding, says Narendra Modi

Congress treating defence as punching bag or funding, says Narendra Modi

In his first public comments after the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Rafale jet fighter deal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday attacked the Congress for treating national security and defence as “either a punching bag or a source of funding” and tagged as scams a series of military purchases made when the opposition party was in power.

Modi also claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was the only one “that understands agricultural issues” and called for a campaign to highlight his government’s achievements on the farm front. Modi’s assertion came close on the heels of the BJP’s defeat in three key states — Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan — in which farmers’ discontent was seen to have played a role .

In a video interaction with booth-level BJP workers from Tamil Nadu on Saturday, Modi was asked a question related to the Supreme Court’s order that effectively vindicated his government’s purchase of Rafale warplanes from Dassault Aviation of France. The Congress party has alleged corruption in the deal.

“Sadly for the Congress, national security and the defence sector is either a punching bag or a source of funding,” Modi replied. “On one hand, the (Congress) leaders called the army chief names and mocked surgical strikes (on terrorist targets across the Line of Control in 2016). On the other hand, they have looted the defence sector from the jeep scam back in the 40s to Bofors in the 1980s, the Augusta and the submarine scams are among many others.”

“All this is to make money even if it means the morale of our forces is diminished. Thankfully, those days are gone,” Modi said.

The apex court on Friday dismissed a bunch of petitions demanding a court-monitored probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale jets for the Indian Air Force and also prescribed a cautionary approach for courts dealing with government decisions relating to defence contracts. The court maintained that courts should keep “in mind the confines of national security.”

The PM cited data from the years his party has been in power and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime to claim: “The Congress only pays lip service. When Congress is in power, farmers suffer. If there’s one party that understands agricultural issues, it is the BJP.”

Modi said the farmers’ well being is a priority for the whole nation. “Our government is the most farmer-friendly government…In last four years, we have allocated ₹ 2.11 lakh crore to agriculture. In last 4 years, 93.97 lakh metric tons of pulses and oil seeds were procured at MSP (minimum support price). It is 13 times the quantity procured by UPA government. We have brought a paradigm shift in agriculture and are determined to double farmer’s income.”

The Congress, which won power in the three key states, promised loan waivers for farmers. Modi said that despite a similar promise in Karnataka, where a Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition came to power in May, only 800 farmers had received minor benefits. “Is this a joke? Is this how they are serious about farmers,” Modi said.