08 February, New Delhi
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday sought to put a lid on the allegations of corruption, levelled by the Congress on the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, saying divulging specific details would seriously impinge on the national security.
Replying to the general discussion on this year’s budget in the Lok Sabha, Mr Jaitley dismissed the Congress charges of corruption and its demand for disclosing pricing details. He countered it saying that the opposition party was seeking to “manufacture” a crisis as it had failed to find anything against the Modi government in the past four years which had provided a clean and corruption-free administration to the country. Citing written replies given in Parliament by Pranab Mukherjee and A.K. Antony, then Defence Ministers during the UPA regime, Mr. Jaitley said that both of them had stated that giving specific details of defence deals, break up of missile and weapon systems and their pricing would compromise the national security.
He said that UPA government had told Parliament that such matters concerned national security and the information was classified. He said that he could cite nearly 15 such replies given during the UPA rule, refusing to disclose details of defence deals for reasons of national security.
Congress member Shashi Tharoor said the party only sought the total quantum of the price of Rafale deal and was not demanding specific details. Mr Jaitley wanted to know if it was the stand of the Congress President also who had made allegations of corruption. When Mr Tharoor replied in affirmative, the Finance Minister said it would be better if “your president goes to Pranab Mukherjee and takes lessons in national security.” Mr. Jaitley said if it was the stand of the Congress president, then he is making serious compromise with the national security.
Mr Jaitley’s remark enraged the Congress members and the party president Rahul Gandhi who was present wanted to explain. Agitated Congress members staged a noisy protest and trooped into the Well, demanding that Mr Gandhi should be allowed to explain his position. Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy cited Rule 357 to the Speaker to enable Mr Gandhi to explain but it was disallowed by her who asked Mr Jaitley to continue his reply.