Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “lied” in Parliament that government orders worth ₹1 lakh crore were provided to Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), while demanding that she should either place the documents in support of her statement in the House or resign.
Mr. Gandhi’s attack came after a media report claimed that “not a single rupee of the said ₹1 lakh crore has come to HAL, since not a single order, as claimed, has been signed till now”. The media report cited senior HAL management officials in order to back its claim.
Defence Minister Sitharaman hit back at Mr. Gandhi for his remarks, saying read “the complete report” to “which you are referring”.
However, as the Lok Sabha record shows, Ms. Sitharaman did not claim the orders were signed, saying they were in the works, Ms. Sitharaman tweeted, quoting from the media report to assert that she had not stated in Parliament that the orders to HAL had been signed.
Her remarks came in response to Mr. Gandhi’s scathing attack in which he said, “When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM’s Rafale lie, the RM [Raksha Mantri/Defence Minister] lied to Parliament.”
“Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL. Or resign,” he tweeted.
Ms. Sitharaman’s office later also tweeted, “Dear Shri @RahulGandhi , looks like you really need to start from ABCs. Someone like you who is hellbent on misleading the public will quote an article even before reading it.”
Her office also accused Mr. Gandhi of “lying” and said HAL has signed contracts worth ₹26,570.8 crore between 2014 and 2018 and contracts worth ₹73,000 crore are in the pipeline.
“Will @RahulGandhi apologise to the country from the floor of the house and resign?” her office tweeted.
The Congress has been targeting the government, alleging that it denied the HAL an offset contract under the Rafale fighter jets deal with France, a charge the government has denied.
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government has accused the Congress of not supporting HAL during its rule and asserted that the government is now strengthening the defence public sector undertaking.
Mr. Gandhi had on Saturday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “weakening” HAL to help his “suit-boot” friend.
Mr. Gandhi’s attack on Saturday had come over a media report which claimed that HAL, grappling with low finances, was forced to borrow ₹1,000 crore to pay salaries to its employees for the first time in years.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted on January 6, “The Lying Defence Minister’s Lies Get Exposed! Defence Minister claimed that procurement orders worth ₹1 Lakh Crore provided to HAL! HAL says Not a SINGLE PAISA has come, as Not a SINGLE ORDER has been signed!”
“For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of ₹1000 Cr to pay salaries!,” he added.