Rafale deal: Jaitley counters opposition

Arun Jaitley

Arun Jaitley  

Opposition ruckus over the Rafale deal interrupted Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s Lok Sabha speech defending the Budget 2018-19, even as he countered allegations regarding the aircraft contract, saying the opposition was trying to manufacture a scam when there was none.

Mr. Jaitley also alleged the Opposition were seriously compromising India’s national security by seeking to make public the details of the Inter-Governmental Agreement with France.

On the Budget and economic issues, the Minister said the NDA government has remained committed to fiscal prudence, Aadhaar’s privacy framework, providing relief to the middle class, the salaried, pensioners, senior citizens and small firms, besides curbing price rise and preventing round-tripping of money via overseas tax havens.

He also assured that the Centre would address Andhra Pradesh’s financial concerns by honouring its commitments and by expediting a solution by which funds can be provided through an alternative mechanism.

On the Rafale deal, Mr. Jaitley said, “The new trend [of the opposition including Congress] is to manufacture corruption charges when there is none... they are seriously compromising India’s national security by asking for such details.”

Stating that it is in the larger interest of India’s national security to keep the price details of defence deals a secret, Mr. Jaitley added that if such specifics were revealed, enemies would get to know about the weapons systems and their capacity.

Congress leader Shashi Tharoor interrupted to state that allegations were not being manufactured and that the government was accountable to Parliament to disclose the expenditure of public money.

UPA precedent

Mr. Jaitley responded by referring to the UPA government’s responses in Parliament — including those given by Pranab Mukherjee, who was the finance and defence minister in the UPA government — to say the UPA had also declined to disclose the price of various defence procurement citing confidentiality requirements.

The Minister said, “please ask your [Congress] party president to go back to Pranab Mukherjee and take certain lessons from him,” adding that the NDA was as accountable to Parliament as the UPA was. On former finance minister P. Chidambaram’s question on whether the impact of ‘high’ deficits would be inflationary, Mr. Jaitley said Congress party should remember that during the UPA regime inflation was 11-12% and that the fiscal deficit was higher than 6%.

On the concerns over agriculture and job creation, the Minister said he would like the Congress “to introspect how much it has contributed to these problems” while being in power for 55 years.

Referring to the GDP growth, he said, “the narratives we inherited and the narrative we have now is entirely different. No one then mentioned that India is the fastest growing economy. It has only happened now. Data speaks for itself.”

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