Twitter duel over Rafale: Rahul Gandhi posts that Nirmala Sitharaman should put out HAL orders or resign

Sitharaman puts out photos of two lists and asks if Rahul will apologise to the country if proved wrong

By PTI and The Telegraph in New Delhi
  • Published 6.01.19, 7:46 PM
  • Updated 9.01.19, 4:38 PM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Rahul Gandhi in Parliament on January 4. PTI

A full-blown Twitter duel erupted over the Rafale deal on Sunday after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's post that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman should present the Rs 1 lakh crore worth of orders given to HAL or resign.  

Sitharaman's strike-back an hour later seemed to suggest that Rahul had jumped the gun while making charges against her, basing it on media reports.

Raksha Mantri, the official defence ministry Twitter handle, had photos of two sheets of paper that had lists of aircraft orders, purportedly made to HAL. Accompanying these photos was a tweet: "It's a shame that the president of @INCIndia is misleading the nation. HAL has signed contracts worth Rs 26570.8 Cr (Between 2014 and 2018) and contracts worth Rs 73000 Cr are in the pipeline. Will @RahulGandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house?"

 Sitharaman's office tweeted that Rahul should "start from ABCs" and read the complete news reports before commenting on it.

The Congress chief's attack came after a media report claimed that "not a single rupee of the said Rs 1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now". The media report cited senior HAL management officials in order to back its claim.

There was another report that said HAL was forced to borrow money to pay salaries to its employees.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted on Sunday: "The Lying Defence Minister's Lies Get Exposed! Defence Minister claimed that procurement orders worth Rs 1 Lakh Crore provided to HAL! HAL says Not a SINGLE PAISA has come, as Not a SINGLE ORDER has been signed!"

"For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of Rs 1000 Cr to pay salaries!" he added.

Sitharaman, from her own Twitter handle, also put out another tweet to suggest that she had never told the Lok Sabha that the deals had been signed.

The Congress has been targeting the government, alleging that it denied HAL an offset contract under the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, a charge the government has denied.

As a counter to this line, Sitharaman repeatedly told the Lok Sabha on Friday that after doing nothing much for HAL when the party was in power, the Congress was now shedding "crocodile tears".

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has not spoken in Parliament yet on the Rafale deal, on Sunday praised Sitharaman and finance minister Arun Jaitley for their "detailed response" to the "lies" on the Rafale deal in Parliament.

Modi was speaking to BJP workers from Anantapuramu, Kadapa, Kurnool, Narsaraopet and Tirupati Lok Sabha constituencies via video-conference.

"Nirmala Sitharaman and Arun Jaitley had placed all facts related to the country's security in Parliament. They replied to each and every word of lies with facts and figures. After many years, Parliament witnessed such a detailed response of the government," he said, referring to last week's debate on Rafale fighter aircraft deal in Lok Sabha.

Tearing into the Opposition parties, Modi said there were only two political teams in the country, the NDA led by the BJP and the other a "jamghat" (motley group) of dynasts.

While the BJP's mantra was "na khaunga, na khane doonga", the mantra of others was to loot in the name of every scheme, he said.

"We are the ones who protect each and every paisa of the country's money," the Prime Minister said.

"In some parties, what matters is one's family. In others, what matters is one's fortune. In some, both family and fortune matter. In BJP, what matters is the passion to work for the future of Bharat Mata, for the future of its 1.3 billion people," he told the workers.

"We are not connected with the reason of furthering a dynasty, nor are we drawn by the temptation to make money. In BJP, our karyakartas are our family and they are our fortune. And they work for Indias fortune," he said.