NEW DELHI: While inaugurating the country’s first war memorial on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing attack on the Congress and members of the Nehru-Gandhi family, accusing them of compromising the country’s security and now trying to sabotage the Rafale aircraft deal.
“People who are facing corruption allegations, those who used defence deals to make money, from Bofors to helicopters..now they are making efforts to ensure that Rafale does not come to India," the prime minister said.
The speech, which had a strong political overtone despite being an official function by the PM just ahead of the general election, ups the ante for his party and at the same time deepens the fault lines between the opposition and the government.
Responding to the criticism, Congress national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala took to Twitter. “National War Memorial is the symbol of sacrifice of martyrs. Prime Minister should not have made a political speech and used it for political purpose. He has undermined the office of Prime Minister," he tweeted.
Hinting at the Congress leadership, Modi also argued that some people believed that family is more important than the country, naming key roads and airports after members of the family. “People want to know why martyrs have been treated badly. It is my good fortune that both National War Memorial and police memorial have been built by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government," Modi said.
“There are those who have made the defence forces and the defence of the country a means to make money," Modi said, adding that key acquisitions, such as procuring bulletproof jackets, were pending for years before he took office in May 2014. It was his government that placed orders for 230,000 bulletproof jackets, Modi said, adding that his government had taken steps to procure advanced defence platforms for all three wings of the services since coming to office.
The PM added that the government had taken steps to encourage private sector investment in defence manufacturing, as well as foreign direct investment, in a bid to ensure state-of-the-art equipment is manufactured in India.
Modi’s comments come against the backdrop of the Congress trying to corner the NDA government with allegations that it was supporting big businesses and helping them secure lucrative contracts as part of a spin off transaction in the ₹59,000-crore Rafale deal. It relates to the acquisition of 36 aircraft from France’s Dassault Aviation, according to the terms of an agreement reached in 2015 during Modi’s visit to France.
The opposition also contends that the price per aircraft as negotiated by the Modi government is far higher than what was originally agreed upon in 2012. India had settled on the Rafale as its choice for the Indian Air Force (IAF) in 2012 after floating a global tender. IAF has been looking for 126 fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet comprising Russian MiGs.
Slamming the Nehru-Gandhi family, Modi said: “Is it India first or is it family first? The difference between India first and family first is the answer between them and us....Indian traditions were not given importance because of one family."