With the Congress attacking the Centre on the Rafale deal, Union minister Nitin Gadkari today said it is “irresponsible and anti-national” to allege corruption in the Euro 7.5 billion fighter aircraft contract with France.
His remarks came a day after the Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of “compromising” on national security and causing a loss of Rs 12,632 crore to the state exchequer on account of purchase of 36 Rafale jets under the inter-governmental deal.
“Where is the corruption? It is irresponsible and anti-national to make such allegations,” the minister for shipping, ports, road transport and Ganga rejuvenation said at the India Today Conclave here.
Gadlkari asked if the country did not require a front line fighter plane such as the Rafale and took potshots at the previous Congress government questioning if the procurement of critical defence assets could be postponed for five-six years over fear of corruption.
Citing the annual report of Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of the fighter aircraft, the Congress alleged that the company sold each jet to India at a price which was Rs 351 crore higher than those sold to Qatar and Egypt 11 months ago.
On the nearly Rs 13,000-crore Punjab National Bank fraud case involving Nirav Modi, Gadkari said the BJP has nothing to do with the gems and jewellery businessman and added that it was unfair to “bill” the blame on it.
“Who was in power when he was given loan?” the BJP leader countered, without naming the Congress or the UPA.
Gadkari said the NDA government will take appropriate action against people wanted by India and who are holed up abroad such as Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya.
However, he sought to underline that every NPA (non-performing asset) is not a scam or involves criminality, as businesses go through various cycles and have to be supported during the tougher times.
“There are two kinds of intentions, bonafide and malafide. We will act strong against malafide intentions,” he said.
The government has helped save Rs 3 lakh crore in NPAs through 22 Cabinet decisions which helped revive stalled projects that helped companies engaged in road building and also the banks, Gadkari claimed.
On the logjam in Parliament, Gadkari alleged that it was due to the opposition’s desire to hog the limelight, and therefore, no business got transacted in the two Houses.
The government, he said, is ready to conduct a debate on any issue, including the Rafale deal or the PNB fraud, he said, adding that only one debate can happen at a time.
Gadkari said the BJP’s win in northeastern states such as Tripura signified the prevailing mood in the country about the NDA rule and exuded confidence that the alliance would return to power after the next general elections.
He said barring Gujarat, where the Congress has increased its seat tally, the principal opposition party has seen a steady decline in elections.
Gadkari claimed that his ministries alone have helped create 50 lakh jobs because of the works of over Rs 8.5 lakh crore that it has undertaken and referred to a IIT-Bombay study which has a ratio of job creation to the amount of money invested.
He, however, said that even though there has been progress on the job creation and skill development fronts by the government, the population continues to grow and the aspirations of the people are also growing faster which may make some people discontented.
Gadkari also expressed his reservation over driver-less cars, saying the government would rather protect the jobs of drivers.
On the Ganga rejuvenation front, he said the government will be awarding over 140 remaining projects by the end of this month, while conceding that only 47 projects have been awarded till now.
Admitting that the government has more work to do in the rural and agricultural sectors, Gadkari said specific measures are being taken on these fronts.