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NCP chief Sharad Pawar targets Modi over stolen Rafale documents

News Agencies | Updated on: 7 March 2019, 15:43 IST

NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Thursday termed as "shocking" the Centre's statement that documents related to the Rafale fighter jet deal have been stolen from the defence ministry, and wondered what will then be the country's situation on the security front.

He said it was now obvious the deal was done for the "benefit of some people" and sought to know why the government hid the theft from Parliament. He also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of politicising the Indian Air Force's (IAF) air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed's camp in Pakistan in retaliation to the terror outfit's attack at Pulwama in Kashmir where 40 CRPF personnel were killed last month.

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday that documents related to the Rafale aircraft deal being stolen, prompting the opposition parties to again raise questions over the Rs 58,000-crore defence deal which is already mired in controversy.

"If confidential papers are stolen, then what will be the situation on the security front," Pawar wondered while interacting with NCP workers in Kolhapur through video- conferencing. "How can confidential papers go missing from the Ministry of Defence. It is clear now that the Rafale deal was done to benefit some people.

Why did the government hide the theft from Parliament. The papers definitely had some important information," he said. Terming the government's stand on Rafale deal issue as surprising, he said, "These are the same people who are refusing an inquiry into the deal while having demanded a probe into the Bofors case."

Taking a swipe at the prime minister's earlier remark "na khaoonga na khane doonga" (would not take bribes, nor let anyone do so), Pawar alleged that during Modi government's rule, the Rafale aircraft cost was increased. "The contract was taken away from HAL and given to a new company of industrialist Anil Ambani which had no experience in aircraft manufacturing," he further charged.

The government and Ambani have, however, been denying any wrongdoing. Further hitting out at Modi over IAF's air strikes in Pakistan, Pawar said, "It is not the opposition, but PM Modi politicising the situation, and that's sad." India wanted peaceful and friendly relations with all neighbours, including Pakistan. "But Pakistan's intentions are not similar," he said.

Even the families of martyrs are saying sacrifices of soldiers should not be politicised, he added. Pawar also claimed that during the recent all-party meeting over the issue, the BJP did not have a representative. Criticising the BJP-led government over its demonetisation, he claimed around 15 lakh people lost their jobs due to the note ban decision.

There is no record of how much black money was unearthed, but people had to face lot of hardships, he said. Pawar also claimed that in the last two-and-a-half years, "11,000 farmers have committed suicide". He acknowledged the role of social media and said it played a "very important role" in BJP's victory in 2014.

Referring to the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra, Pawar said two joint rallies have taken place so far and discussions are underway for a couple of seats. "Talks are on for one or two seats. A decision on who will contest those one or two seats will be taken on merits. There will be no issues. By the time elections are announced, seat-sharing formula will be finalised," he said.


First published: 7 March 2019, 15:43 IST