At a time opposition Congress and ruling BJP are engaged in a war of words over disengagement of Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have brought up the politically controversial Rafale fighter jet procurement issue at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence on Thursday.
Rahul is learnt to have asked Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat about the reasons for scaling down the proposal for purchase of Rafale jets from the initial 126 to 36.
He asked whether this will affect the Air Force’s plans to expand its air combat capability, given the fact that India is facing challenges from both Pakistan and China.
Gen Rawat, it is learnt, replied that the Air Force is procuring indigenous fighter jets from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
Rahul’s question came during oral evidence by the Ministry of Defence on the budgetary allocation and the expenditure of the ministry.
The panel’s chairman, Jual Oram, is learnt to have asked Rahul not to raise issues which are not part of the agenda.
The agenda of the Standing Committee meeting was examination of Demands for Grants of the Ministry of Defence for 2021-22.
It is learnt that BSP MP Kunwar Danish Ali backed Rahul, arguing that members should be allowed to pose questions. Ali also intervened to argue that if the Air Force is banking on HAL for procurement of fighter jets, then why the public sector undertaking was overlooked in the Rafale deal.
Rahul Gandhi had centred the Congress party’s campaign in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections around the Rafale deal. without much success.
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