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Rahul Gandhi maligning his own image by leveling allegations over Rafale deal: Athawale


Mumbai, Sep 30: Union minister Ramdas Athawale on Sunday said opposition Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi were "making a lot of noise" over the Rafale fighter jet deal which was "between two governments".

Union minister Ramdas Athawale

Speaking on the sidelines of a function in Mumbai, the minister of state for social justice and empowerment said French President Emmanuel Macron has said the deal was between two countries and no one else was involved in it.

Macron had recently said the Rafale deal was a "government-to-government" discussion and he was not in power when the multi-billion dollar agreement for 36 fighter jets was signed between India and France.

[Reliance role in Rafale restricted to offset obligation, not aircraft manufacture:Air Marshal Pandey]

"The Congress, especially its president Rahul Gandhi, is making a lot of noise over the Rafale deal. It is an agreement between two governments. The president of France has also made it clear that the Rafale deal is between two countries and no one else is involved in it," Athawale said.

He said Gandhi was maligning his own image on the issue.

"There is nothing wrong in inducting a newly formed defence company to join hands when such a huge investment is going to come to India. The French government has also made it clear that Anil Ambani has nothing to do with this agreement, as it has taken place between the two nations," the minister said.

['Rafale' vs 'Bofors': Can the two defence deals be compared?]

He claimed that the Rs 1,600 crore price for each Rafale jet was finalised by the French government and an agreement was reached by the two countries. Athawale, whose party Republican Party of India (A) is a BJP ally, also welcomed NCP chief Sharad Pawar's reported statement giving a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal. Pawar, speaking to a television channel on September 26, had said people "do not have doubts" over Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intentions.

"I don't think people have doubts about Modi's intentions personally," Pawar had told the news channel.

"NCP chief Sharad Pawar has also given a clean chit to Prime Minister Modi over the Rafale deal. It is a good sign. The NDA would welcome (him) if he wishes to join us," Athawale said.

"If the Congress decides to ditch the NCP, I would like to welcome him (Pawar) here," he said.

"Pawar is a seasoned politician and despite being in the opposition, he knows when to extend support to some good work (Rafale deal). He always supports genuine work of any government," Athawale said. "Despite this, some people level allegations against the prime minister of our country. To defame the prime minister means defaming the nation," he said.

Replying to a query on senior NCP leader and Lok Sabha MP Tariq Anwar Friday resigning from the party and Parliament following Pawar's "defence" of Modi on the Rafale deal, the minister said Anwar need not have resigned from the party. He said it was Anwar and late P A Sangma who had first raised the question of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi's foreign origins and it was not Pawar's idea.

[Defence Ministry official objected to benchmark price of Rafale jets: Report]

The three later left the Congress to the form the Nationalist Congress Party. Athawale claimed that the NDA would win more than 300 seats in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, if even a large number of regional parties joined hands against the ruling alliance. The minister also said the alliance between Prakash Ambedkar's Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) would not affect his party RPI-A.

He also said he agreed with the Shiv Sena's opinion that the BBM-AIMIM alliance would benefit the BJP. Asked if there was a tacit understanding between his party and BBM, Athawale said he would like to have an "open alliance" with Ambedkar and not a "secret understanding". On a question on inflation, the Union minister said the Centre had been successful in curbing it.


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