UPA to blame for HAL's ouster from Rafale deal: Sitharaman

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New Delhi (IANS): Rebutting Congress' charges against the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale deal, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday held the erstwhile UPA regime responsible for Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) being overlooked for the jet deal.

"All these attributes that are being put to us about HAL...it's not for us but the UPA to answer as to why the agreement between Dassault and HAL did not happen. 

"The UPA government could have done anything to strengthen HAL's offer, to make sure its terms were appealing enough for Dassault, they could have done everything to ensure the terms were appealing enough for Dassault to conclude the agreement," Sitharaman said during a media interaction here. 

"This entire issue of HAL not being chosen happened during their (UPA) time, so all these questions that they are now directing at us should actually go to them. You have not taken care of HAL, you have not made the terms appealing enough for the HAL to successfully bid with Dassault," she said. 

Earlier in the day Congress leader and former Union Minister A K Antony attacked Sitharaman for "tarnishing" HAL's image over her remarks that the defence PSU "did not have required capability to produce Rafale".

She also countered Antony's assertions of the Modi government compromising national security by reducing the number of jets to 36 from the 126 requisitioned by the Indian Air Force in 2000.

"He (Antony) has done the negotiations, so he knows about how do they go. These are not over-the-counter purchases... Orders have to placed and then they have to be manufactured, thus there is a timeline. 

"The government has responded to the issues raised by the Congress including about the price of the basic aircraft in Parliament. It was our duty to ensure that we get the best price. The price you (UPA) obtained for a basic aircraft when compared with the intergovernmental agreement that we have done, it is 9 per cent cheaper, and it is fact," she added.

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