Sharad Pawar Says Never Supported Modi, Backs Congress Demand for JPC to Probe Rafale Deal

Mumbai: In face of a brewing revolt in his party over his “defence” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar on Monday demanded that the central government set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the alleged irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Addressing a rally in Beed in central Maharashtra, Pawar clarified that he did not support Modi and would never do that.

“Tell the price of Rafale (deal). The price of (one) Rafale jet was Rs 650 crore (in the deal agreed by UPA in 2013). Modi bought it for Rs 1600 crore. Appoint a JPC, give documents,” he said, in what is being seen as a damage control move.

Pawar’s apparent defence of Modi last week had led to senior party leader Tariq Anwar and party’s general secretary Munaf Hakim quitting from the primary membership of the Nationalist Congress Party.

Speaking to a TV channel on Wednesday, Pawar had said, “I don’t think people have doubts about Modi’s intentions personally.” A former defence minister, Pawar also said the Opposition’s demand to share technical details related to the fighter jets “made no sense”. He, however, said there was no harm for the government to disclose prices of the aircraft.

The senior leader’s remarks led to a political furore and a split in his own party.

While Anwar and Hakim resigned two days after the remarks saying he weakened the voice of the opposition, the likes of Supriya Sule and Praful Patel sought to downplay it.

BJP chief Amit Shah also latched on to it and lauded Pawar, asking Congress president Rahul Gandhi to believe his own ally who has put “national interests above party politics”.

The Congress has been demanding that the government set up a JPC to investigate the defence deal, alleging that PM Modi personally changed the terms of the contract with France and the offset contract was taken away from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and given to Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence.

In an official statement on Friday, the NCP said Pawar had not given any clean chit to Modi. Spokesperson Nawab Malik reiterated the party’s demands that the Centre disclose the price of the fighter jets and a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe the matter.

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