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RM (Rafale Minister) must resign’: Rahul tweets attack on fighter jet row

New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses the crowd during a protest over SC/ST atrocities bill, at Jantar-Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday, Aug 9, 2018. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI8_9_2018_000100B)

New Delhi :In the continuing back and forth over the Rafale jet deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday tweeted a sharp attack on the government, this time targeting defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who the Congress president demanded, “must resign”. The attack came after the former boss of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited TS Raju told Hindustan Times that the state-run plane maker could have built Rafale fighters in India had the government managed to close the original negotiations with Dassault and had actually signed a work-share contract with the French company.
“When HAL can build a 25-tonne Sukhoi-30, a fourth-generation fighter jet that forms the mainstay of the air force, from raw material stage, then what are we talking about? We could have definitely done it (licence produced the Rafale jets),” Raju, who retired on September 1, said.
Gandhi, 48, quoted the news report in his tweet attack to say that former HAL chief, TS Raju, had “nailed” Sitharaman’s “lie”. Her position, he said, had become “untenable”.
The government and the Congress have been trading charges over the controversial Rs 59,000-crore purchase almost every day. On Tuesday, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said HAL was “dropped” from the deal when the UPA was in power, because it couldn’t agree on terms of production with Dassault.
The minister also that HAL lost out on the chance to build the warplanes because of the UPA regime. Former defence minister AK Antony accused the minister of suppressing facts.
The earlier deal also fell through because Dassault could not guarantee that HAL would deliver the aircraft it was assembling on time. There was a huge disparity between the time Dassault thought it should take HAL to make the planes in India, and the time HAL said it would take.
Air Chief Marshal AY Tipnis, a former IAF chief, said building Rafales in India would have been a challenging task for the HAL though not impossible with transfer of manufacturing technology from France. “The fact is HAL has not performed to the level it could have. It promises more than it can deliver and quality of work has been substandard in many cases. It has also backtracked on its promises.”
The NDA government’s decision to enter into a government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafale warplanes was announced in April 2015 with the deal signed a little over a year later. This replaced the UPA regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafale aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by HAL using parts imported from France.