AK Antony says he intentionally delayed Rafale deal for “National interest”

Refuting the claims of Congress President Rahul Gandhi that the previous government was on the verge of procuring 126 Rafale jets from France in a deal better than the one signed by current NDA regime, former Defence Minister AK Antony has said that he intentionally delayed the contract in “national interest.”

Though Antony sought to blame the NDA for proceeding with the deal by ignoring an adverse report, his remark is at odds with Congress’s claim that UPA’s “deal” was diluted by the Modi government. The UPA, Congress has maintai- ned, was on the verge of signing a contract for 126 aircraft.

The senior Congress leader sought to reintroduce the Rafale deal in the conversation in the wake of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s comment that the fighter was missed in the context of Balakot attack.

Slamming Modi’s remark that Congress delayed the deal for “commission”, Antony cited the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the issue to say, “I delayed the deal to protect the national interest. The Prime Minister sacrificed our national interests.”

As BJP continued to focus on “national security” with shrill attacks on Congress on the campaign trail, the AICC said the ruling party was politicising the anti-Pakistan operations with an eye on elections.

“Don’t politicise the armed forces. Don’t drag military into politics. I request the BJP president Amit Shah, I request the prime minister, don’t politicise the army. As a former defence minister, I am telling them,” he said.

Stressing on the issue of “politicisation”, the AICC tweeted a collage of comments, with air chief BS Dhanoa’s remark that IAF does not count the bodies pitted against those of defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and SS Ahluwalia who said there were no figures of casualties and of BJP chief Amit Shah and Union minister VK Singh who have put the toll at above 250.

“This is high time for the PM to answer my questions purely on the basis of the CAG report. He should answer why, ignoring the committee’s recommendation, he went to France to sign this agreement and gave all these concessions to the French government,” Antony said.