– Watch Video The Rafale controversy might have seen raging debates in the Parliament and scintillating political altercations between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman seems to be amused by an eight-year-old’s version of the Rafale explanation.
In a video that went viral on social media, the girl, identity unknown, is seen explaining the specifics of the difference between “Rahul Gandhi’s version of a Rafale jet” and “PM Modi’s version of a Rafale jet”.
Pointing towards an empty pencil box, she refers to it as Gandhi’s idea of a Rafale jet that is completely empty from inside and costs Rs 720 crores. On the other hand, she picks up another pencil box that has various items in it and refers to it as PM Modi’s version of a Rafale jet with modern weaponry, costing Rs 1600 crores.
“Rahul Gandhi does not understand this basic difference between a jet that is empty and one laden with arms and ammunition,” the girl is seen saying in the video.
Sitharaman retweeted the post and thanked the girl for her interest in the Rafale deal. “Thanks for posting this. My special thanks to this smart young lady (dear child, if affection permitted) for taking interest in the matter of fighter aircraft Rafale. My good wishes for her to fly one of them as a trained fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force,” she said in her tweet.
The row surrounding the Rafale deal intensified in the recently-concluded Winter Session of Parliament after Rahul Gandhi and Nirmala Sitharaman exchanged verbal blows over the deal.
Sitharaman on January 4 tore into the Congress during a discussion in Lok Sabha and said that the Rafale deal was not a scam but a decision that would bring Prime Minister Narendra Modi back in power. In a no-holds-barred attack, Sitharaman claimed that the Congress ignored national security and had not gone ahead with the deal when it was in power as it “didn’t get the money”.
The minister further informed Parliament that the delivery of first Rafale will happen in 2019 and the last aircraft of 36 jets will be delivered in 2022. She also revealed that the base price of each Rafale jet is Rs 670 crore, adding the process of negotiation was concluded in 14 months. Sitharaman said that the Indian Air Force had suggested the government to purchase two squadrons or 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition instead of 18, which was planned under the Congress-led UPA government.
“Comparing the cost of Rs 526 crore with Rs 1,600 crores is like comparing apples to oranges. The cost quoted in 2007 will it remain the same in 2016, because there is escalation cost and there is exchange rate variation,” she said, adding: “The price of the basic aircraft cannot be compared with the price of weaponised aircraft.”
Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi-government of debilitating state-run aerospace company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in order to benefit Anil Ambani.
Taking on Sitharaman, the Congress president said that the Raksha Mantri ‘lied’ in the Parliament while stating details of the HAL contracts and that she dodged his questions in the Lok Sabha on the Rafale deal.
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