Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday responded to Rahul Gandhi’s Lok Sabha attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale jet deal by bringing up controversial cases, both past and present — including the Bofors gun purchase, the AgustaWestland chopper deal, and the National Herald matter — and said that the Congress president has a “legacy of speaking falsehood”.

Jaitley also said that the Congress does not understand national security, it only understands money, and likened Rahul Gandhi to someone who has a “natural dislike for the truth.”

During the course of his nearly 40-minute speech — interrupted by an adjournment — soon after Rahul Gandhi finished speaking, Jaitley quoted a line from the 1964 James Bond film Goldfinger. “If it is once, it’s a happenstance, it can happen. If it is twice, it is a coincidence. And if it is thrice, it’s a conspiracy,” Jaitley said, to describe the Congress as alleged conspirators in multiple defence scams.

Speaking after Jaitley, Trinamool Congress’s Saugata Ray said that Jaitley had misquoted Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond) because the actual dialogue spoke about “enemy action”, and not “conspiracy”.

In the film, the character Auric Goldfinger, played by Gert Frobe, says: “Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: ‘Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time its enemy action. Miami, Sandwich and now Geneva – I propose to wring the truth out of you.”

Roy also asked why the BJP had asked Jaitley — who was neither a member of the Lok Sabha nor the defence minister — to spearhead the Rafale response despite having nearly 300 members in the Lower House.

Responding to Gandhi’s charges and questions, Jaitley said: “There are some people who have a natural dislike for the truth. Every word spoken for the last six months on this subject, including in this House [by the Congress] is false. He [Gandhi] has a legacy of speaking falsehood.”

The finance minister questioned Gandhi’s knowledge of combat aircraft after the Congress chief raised questions about the price of the Rafale jet in the new deal signed by the Modi government. “It is a tragedy that the grand old party, which was headed by the legends in the past, is now headed by a gentleman who doesn’t have basic understanding of combat aircraft,” Jaitley said. He ruled out forming a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and said: “Remember the JPC on Bofors. It said the kickbacks were winding up charges. It whitewashed corruption,” he said, adding that JPC members usually end up working on partisan lines. He argued that after the apex court’s judgment on Rafale, in which it dismissed pleas for a court-monitored probe, any debate over pricing and the process should be over.

With Gandhi referring to a businessman in connection with the Rafale deal as “double A”, Jaitley questioned if the Congress president played in the lap of “Q”, an apparent reference to a middleman from the Bofors deal.

Jaitley contended in his reply to Gandhi’s speech that the cost of the bare aircraft is less than what the United Progressive Alliance had negotiated, and the weaponised version now costs 20% less than in the UPA-era. He insisted that the price of the bare aircraft has been revealed, but the price of the fully loaded plane can’t be disclosed for national security.

Slamming Rahul Gandhi for “manufacturing” a leaked tape attributed to Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar, who was the Union defence minister when the deal was renegotiated, Jaitley said that senior Congress leaders are out on bail in a National Herald case. He also referred to AgustaWestland middleman Christian Michel, who is in ED custody in relation to an alleged VVIP chopper scam from the UPA era. “When the AgustaWestland deal was being negotiated, [Michel, in an email] was referring to ‘Mrs Gandhi or Italian lady, son of Italian lady’, ‘son will speak to the mother’?” Shortly after Rahul Gandhi ‘s press conference in the evening to counter his remarks, he tweeted: “‘How much does he know? When will he know?’”

First Published: Jan 02, 2019 23:36 IST

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