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BJP trains Rafale verdict gun on Rahul Gandhi

BJP leaders demand an apology from the Congress president

Our Special Correspondent New Delhi Published 14.12.18, 11:02 PM
BJP president Amit Shah at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Friday.

BJP president Amit Shah at the party headquarters in New Delhi on Friday. Prem Singh

Defence Minister Nirmala Sithraman addresses a press conference on Supreme Court's verdict on Rafale case, at National Media Centre in New Delhi on Friday, December 14, 2018.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sithraman addresses a press conference on Supreme Court's verdict on Rafale case, at National Media Centre in New Delhi on Friday, December 14, 2018. PTI

A poll-scarred government and BJP grabbed at Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on the Rafale deal to launch a vitriolic attack on Rahul Gandhi, demanding he apologise to the people and the army.

Multiple leaders were put on the job, reflecting the government’s eagerness to use the verdict to try and offset, at least in the perception war, the setbacks in the Assembly polls this week.

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Home minister Rajnath Singh raised the matter in the Lok Sabha, BJP chief Amit Shah hurriedly addressed the media and finance minister Arun Jaitley accompanied defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman to a joint news conference. Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad too spoke to reporters.

“The Supreme Court verdict is a slap in the face of Rahul Gandhi’s politics of falsehood…. Rahul Gandhi should apologise to the nation and the army,” Shah, silent since Tuesday’s defeat in three heartland states, said.

He declined to discuss the polls: “I will react (to the poll results) in a day or two but I don’t want to dilute the main subject today.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Shah had presided over two party meetings on Thursday but didn’t speak on the election defeats.

Shah slammed the Congress president for saying the “chowkidar (sentinel)” — a reference to Modi in his own words — was a “thief”.

“All the thieves have gathered to call the chowkidar a thief but the country never believed it. All the thieves have got together because they are scared of the chowkidar,” he said.

Shah asked Rahul to reveal his source of information on Rafale, saying his credibility was at stake.

Jaitley ruled out the Congress demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe. “Deals like Rafale cannot be reviewed in a body of partisan divisions, it can only be done in a court of law,” he said, adding that the court verdict was “absolutely” conclusive.

“The deaf will never hear an answer,” he said, describing the allegations by “disruptor” Congress as “fiction writing that was compromising national security”.

In the Lok Sabha, Rajnath sought to seize the opportunity immediately after the court verdict arrived.

“Madam Speaker, the Congress president has tried to mislead the nation over the Rafale deal. He has also tried to malign the country’s name internationally. The Supreme Court verdict today has said, ‘it is financial advantage to the nation’,” he said, demanding Rahul apologise to the House and nation.

In the evening, Prasad evaded a direct reply when asked about Rahul’s reference to the CAG issue and his claim that the court judgment lacked basis.

“He is going into technicality, I am going into substance,” he replied, accusing Rahul of denigrating the apex court.

“The court verdict is in 34 para(graph)s. It has dealt with all the issues (raised by Rahul). If he (Rahul) wants to find fault (with the judgment) to do politics, I have nothing to say,” Prasad said.

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