UPA government did not sign Rafale deal because it didn't get the money, says Nirmala Sitharaman
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who on Friday attempted a rebuttal of the Congress's charges on the Rafale deal against the Narendra Modi, said the earlier UPA regime stopped the deal as it 'didn't get the money' and ignored national security.
In the Lok Sabha, Sitharaman alleged that the Congress sheds crocodile tears for HAL, the state-owned aircraft manufacturer, not getting the offset contract but it did nothing to scale up its capacity.
The BJP-led NDA government gave Rs 1 lakh crore worth of contracts to HAL, she said.
Taking on the Congress, the minister said: 'You stopped the deal, forgetting the air force was suffering. You didn't conclude the deal, because it didn't suit you. The deal didn't get you money.'
'They did not intend to buy the aircraft till something else was done. There is something different between defence deal and deal in defence,' she said, asserting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government gave priority to national security.
'You are misleading the country by saying the NDA government reduced 126 Rafale jets to 36. The Congress was supposed to buy 18 in fly-away condition, the NDA raised that to 36,' she said.
The delivery of first Rafale will happen in 2019, while the last aircraft of 36 jets will be delivered in 2022, the minister said.
She said the IAF always advises government to buy two squadrons, which is 36 aircraft instead of 18, in case of emergency purchases.