Rahul Gandhi challenges PM Narendra Modi for debate on Rafale deal

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NEW DELHI: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Monday threw an open challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an open debate on the controversial Rafale fighter jets deal.
Rahul also alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has lied to the people of the country regarding the deal. “Nirmala Sitharaman ji has lied to the youth of the nation. She said India and France have a secret pact and so they can’t reveal the price of Rafale aircraft. I asked France President if this is true and he denied,” Rahul alleged while addressing a rally in Bidar in Karnataka.Attacking the Centre over fugitive tycoons like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, the Congress chief accused the Prime Minister of sheltering the rich businessmen in the country. “Modi is not the Prime Minister of country but of 15 super rich businessmen”, he alleged.Congress has been attacking the government for inking the deal at a much higher price than the one the previous UPA regime had negotiated. Rahul has been accusing PM Modi of corruption in the deal for the French fighter planes, saying that he had favoured his ‘businessman friend’ Anil Ambani by getting him the contract. However, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group on Sunday denied receiving any contract from the Defence Ministry and termed the allegations “unfounded and incorrect” being deliberately made to “mislead people and cloud the issue.”The group told news agency PTI that Dassault, the French firm that is to supply 36 Rafale fighter jets, chose Reliance Defence Ltd to meet its ‘offset’ or export obligation in the contract and the Ministry of Defence has no role in the selection of Indian partners by the foreign vendors.Reliance Defence Ltd CEO Rajesh Dhingra said the government-to-government deal requires all 36 aircraft to be delivered in a ‘fly-away’ condition which means “they are to be exported from France by Dassault” and “HAL or anyone else cannot be the production agency for the simple reason that no aircraft are to be produced in India.”