Since 2016, Congress and BJP have been at loggerheads over the Rafale deal signing. Here’s a comprehensive look at what the two parties have said on the issue over the years.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi in his recent Lok Sabha speech during the debate on the No-Confidence Motion against the Modi government, attacked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for the umpteenth time over the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

In his latest jibe, Rahul accused Sitharaman of “lying” to the nation over the Rafale deal’s ‘secrecy’, while the Defence Minister has out-rightly denied the claim.

Since the Rafale deal was signed in 2016, Congress and BJP have been at loggerheads. Here’s a comprehensive look at the twists and turns in what the two parties have said on the issue over the last three years.

September 23, 2016

An Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed between the governments of India and France for supply of 36 Rafale aircrafts, initial consignment of weapons, long-term maintenance support through performance-based logistics, simulators with annual maintenance and associated equipment.

Media reports stated that India had agreed to pay approximately 7.8 billion euros (Rs 58,000 crore) for the jets. The delivery of the jets was scheduled to begin from September 2019.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Francois Hollande had agreed to scale back an original plan to buy 126 Rafale planes to just 36 in fly-away condition to meet the Indian Air Force's urgent needs as it tries to modernise and face an assertive China and long-time foe Pakistan.

February 5, 2017

In reply to an RTI query, details regarding supply of 36 Rafale aircraft cannot be disclosed as they are confidential in nature, the Air Force said. The information sought is confidential in nature and public revelation of the same may lead to its subsequent availability to our adversaries, the reply said.

November 14, 2017

The Congress slammed the Modi government for compromising national security and alleged that a huge scam was brewing in the procurement of Rafale fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force.

The Congress said that the Modi government signed the Rafale deal on September 23, 2016, for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from Dassault for approximately Rs 58,000 crore and on October 3, Reliance Defence Limited, owned by Anil Ambani, tied up with the French company for a Joint venture for defence production in India.

The Congress cited a Reliance document to point out that off-sets in the deal, which are half the cost of 36 aircraft, work out to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore.

“That means the deal is worth Rs 60,000 crore,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, adding the government did not part with any information related to the deal despite several attempts by his party.

Non-transparency in the deal also denied the transfer of technology to the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, the Congress further said.

November 15, 2017

French diplomatic sources asserted that the Rafale fighter aircraft deal was in India's interest, a day after the Congress alleged that the BJP government was buying 36 aircraft from the French firm at a highly inflated price.

The sources said the military jet was selected for its "outstanding performance" and "competitive price", while refusing to directly counter the Congress' allegation, terming it a "domestic political issue".

November 16, 2017

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Self "Reliance" is obviously a critical aspect of "Make in India. Can you explain "Reliance" on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal?”

Meanwhile, the IAF Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said that there was "no overpricing" in the Rafale purchase as the government had "negotiated a very good" deal for the French fighter aircraft.

November 17, 2017

Responding to Congress, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that allegations relating to the procurement deal for 36 Rafale fighter jet were "shameful" and that such bickering was a "disservice" to the armed forces.

November 18, 2017

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi hit back at Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the Rafale deal, claiming it was "shameful" that her boss was "silencing" her.

"Dear RM, what's shameful is your boss silencing you.

Please tell us:

1. Final price of each Rafale jet?
2. Did PM take CCS permission before announcing purchase in Paris?
3. Why PM bypassed experienced HAL and gave the deal to AA rated businessman with no defence experience?" Rahul tweeted.

Reacting to him, Sitharaman slammed the previous UPA government for not taking a decision on the Rafale fighter jet deal for about 10 years and said she could not spell out in detail what happened due to the delay as it involved the nation's security.

The minister said that the procurement order was placed "properly" and "by not slipping away" from any procedures. She further said that the Cabinet Committee on Security approved the deal and all formalities were complied with.

November 25, 2017

Rahul Gandhi, at a poll rally in Gujarat said, "I would ask Modiji three questions (on the Rafale deal). First, is there a difference in the cost of planes in the first and the second contract (signed with a French firm) and did India pay more or less money as per the second contract? And, has the industrialist (whose company has formed a joint venture with the French firm), who was given the contract, ever manufactured planes?"

Further, he said, “And a more important question, did you follow the due government procedure? Why the (then) defence minister (Manohar Parrikar) was seen catching fish in Goa? And, was an approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security taken (for the mega deal)?

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley hit back at Rahul, saying unlike during Congress regimes when middlemen ruled the roost, there was no “Quattrocchi" in the contract for the Rafale fighter jet.

Jaitley was referring to Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Italian businessman believed to be involved in the Bofors scam which came to light when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

December 1, 2017

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari asked the government to make public the details of the re-negotiated deal for the public to draw a comparison on whether the deal negotiated now is better that the one done during the UPA rule.

Tewari alleged that a shortlisted company along with Rafale had also written to the government offering the price of its aircraft at Rs 444 crore less than the purported rate at which the renegotiated Rafale deal was struck.

December 9, 2017

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar accused former Defence Minister A K Antony of creating a "logjam" over the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Parrikar said for two and a half years the file dealing with Rafale purchase was doing rounds in circle, and that BJP broke the circle by deciding to go for a different approach.

December 18, 2017

Replying to a question on the Rafale issue in the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that there cannot be any comparison between the cost of the 36 Rafale fighter jets it inked with France and the price negotiated by the previous UPA regime for the original 126-fighter aircraft deal as the deliverables were different.

Meanwhile, the Gujarat High Court issued a notice to Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi in a Rs 5,000 crore defamation suit filed by Anil Ambani-led Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited over the Rafale deal.

The Reliance Group firm has maintained that the joint venture between Reliance Aerostructure Ltd and Dassault Aviation was a bilateral agreement between two private companies and had nothing to do with the government.

December 20, 2017

In a written response to a question in the Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said all the provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure have been followed and the inter-governmental agreement on the Rafale deal was signed only after the approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security.

She also termed the controversy over the Rafale deal as “motivated" and "baseless".

February 6, 2018

“Top Secret (Not for Distribution).

RM says the price negotiated for each RAFALE jet by the PM and his “reliable” buddy is a state secret.

Action Points: 1.Informing Parliament about the price is a national security threat, 2.Brand all who ask, Anti National.”

February 7, 2018

Congress president Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of protecting those behind alleged corruption in the Rafale deal.

He noted that it is for the first time that the Defence Minister is saying "we will not tell the country".

"This is the biggest deal for the backbone of the Air Force, but Defence Minister says we will not tell the country as it is a secret, under a deal struck in Paris".

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma also alleged there was a big scam in the Rafale deal as the price at which the planes were negotiated were four times higher and benefited private firms.

The Centre then came out with a detailed statement rebutting Congress’ allegations. The Modi administration said the current deal “is better in terms of capability, price, equipment, delivery, maintenance, training, etc than that notionally negotiated by the then government (UPA II) in a process it could not conclude in ten years”.

February 8, 2018

Referring to PM Modi's speeches in Parliament the previous day, Congress President Rahul Gandhi told reporters that it was clear that the Prime Minister was not interested in answering "fundamental questions".

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, he said, had first announced that she would inform the nation about the cost of purchasing Rafale aircraft but was now saying she could not do so as it was a state secret.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley then hit back at the Congress, accusing it of "seriously compromising" country's security by seeking details of armaments purchased along with the Rafale aircraft. He also advised the Congress chief to "learn" from former defence minister Pranab Mukherjee "lessons on national security."

February 9, 2018

Congress President Rahul Gandhi posed a question on the Rafale deal in a tweet and followed it with choices.

“Q. Why did the Raksha Mantri change her stance from: I will reveal the price of the RAFALE planes in Nov 2017 to the price is a state secret in Feb 2018

A. Corruption
B. To protect Modiji
C. To protect Modiji's friend
D. All of above”

Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala also cited instances during the previous UPA government when details of every defence deal were made public and placed before Parliament.

Rahul Gandhi meanwhile hit back at Arun Jaitley’s remarks the previous day, “Dear Mr Jaitlie, You said the UPA never released prices of Defence purchases? To nail your lie, here are 3 Parliamentary replies by the UPA with full transparency on pricing. Now do ask our Raksha Mantri to tell India how much each RAFALE jet cost,” he tweeted.

February 10, 2018

BJP chief Amit Shah backed Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s comments on the Rafale deal.

At a BJP Parliamentary Party meeting, he told MPs that sharing all details of the deal such as expenditure incurred on its weaponry and the technological know-how will only alert India's enemies and harm the country's interests.

On the other hand, defence ministry sources claimed that the original deal to procure 126 Rafale fighter jets could not go through during the UPA rule despite reaching the final stage as the then Defence Minister A K Antony felt there was something wrong in the process and asked for a review.

At a Karnataka election rally, Rahul Gandhi however, intensifying his attack on the Centre over the Rafale fighter jet deal, alleged it was the biggest issue of corruption in the country and asked the prime minister to reply why he took the contract from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and gave it to a "friend".

February 11, 2018

Congress Working Committee member and former Defence Minister A K Antony said the Centre should explain the reasons for overlooking the defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in favour of a private company.

“How are ‘purchase price’ and ‘national security’ interconnected?” he asked.

February 21, 2018

Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted yet again,

“Modiji, last month you ignored my suggestions for your Mann Ki Baat monologue. Why ask for ideas when in your heart you know what every Indian wants to hear you speak about?

1. Nirav Modi’s 22,000 cr. Loot & Scoot.
2. The 58,000 cr. RAFALE scam.

"I look forward to your sermon."

March 3, 2018

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asserted there can be no comparison between the scam-hit Bofors gun deal and the procurement of the Rafale fighter aircraft.

March 9, 2018

The Congress accused Modi of compromising national security by purchasing 36 aircraft at three times the price agreed upon during the previous UPA government. Citing the 2016 annual report of French manufacturer Dassault Aviation, the Congress said that while the price of 48 aircraft (24 each to Egypt and Qatar) was shown as Euro 7.9 billion, the cost of 36 aircraft sold to India was mentioned as Euro 7.5 billion.

On the same day, French President Emmanuel Macron, who was on a visit to India, said the Rafale deal with India was a win-win approach and its details could not be revealed for commercial reasons.

March 12, 2018

Congress President Rahul Gandhi met French President Emmanuel Macron. However, he did not raise the Rafale fighter jet deal issue, said party sources.

On the same day, details provided by the government in Parliament revealed that the Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal in August, 2016, nearly 16 months after the announcement of its procurement was made by Prime Minister Modi during his visit to France in April 2015.

March 14, 2018

The Union government ruled out any plan to issue a White Paper on the Rafale fighter jet deal with France.

March 16, 2018

Congress president Rahul Gandhi again trained his guns on the Modi government over the Rafale deal, alleging that it had caused a loss of Rs 36,000 crore to the state exchequer even as the Army "begs" for more money.

March 28, 2018

Minister of State for Defence, Subhash Bhamre said that an agreement on protecting classified data was signed by India and France on March 10, 2018, replacing an earlier agreement signed in 2008.

The Minister's statement was significant because the NDA government has been sticking to its stand that it cannot reveal the price of the fighter jets in the interest of national security and because of a confidentiality agreement signed by the two countries in 2008 under the UPA government.

March 29, 2018

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman asserted again that she cannot reveal the price of the Rafale fighter jets in the interest of national security.

April 7 2018

Issuing a ‘Modi Scam Alert!’, Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "USD 15 billion fighter jet deal re-tendered. Prime Minister's friends race to tie up strategic partners. RAFALE, (Rs) 40,000 crore loss to exchequer was "Sayonara" (Good bye in Japanese) money to French, so Prime Minister could re-tender contract and favour friends."

Rahul's comment came in the wake of a news report which stated that India is looking to buy more than 100 new fighter jets which were eventually expected to cost upwards of Rs 100,000 crore or about USD 15 billion.

April 30, 2018

The Congress demanded a judicial probe into the BJP-led NDA government's decision to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at an "inflated" price.

June 5, 2018

Without naming the Congress, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said, "false comparisons" were made between the price at which India was procuring the jets and the price being negotiated by some other countries.

June 8, 2018

Nirmala Sitharaman reiterated disclosure of specifics about the deal could reveal the aircraft's capabilities to the country's rivals.

July 20, 2018

Congress President Rahul Gandhi, in his Lok Sabha speech during the debate on the No-Confidence Motion against the Modi government, accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “lying” to the nation over the Rafale deal’s ‘secrecy’.

He said that French President Emmanuel Macron told him that there was no binding secrecy clause in the Rafale deal.

Sitharaman however, hit back at the Congress chief and termed as "absolutely wrong" Rahul's claim and said the initial agreement was signed when the UPA was in power in 2008.

France too issued a statement saying that a security agreement it concluded with India in 2008 legally binds the two countries to protect the classified information relating to operational capabilities of defence equipment, although pricing was not explicitly mentioned.

The BJP later moved a privilege motion against Rahul for levelling "baseless allegations" against the government over the Rafale deal.

July 21, 2018

Accusing Rahul Gandhi of "concocting" a conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron over the Rafale deal, Union Minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress President has seriously hurt the image of an Indian politician before the world at large.