UPA's Rafale deal would have generated jobs for 24,000-25,000 engineers: Congress Leader Ghulam Nabi Azad

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: Calling the UPA's Rafale deal the "mother of all 'Make in India' initiatives, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad once again launched a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre. Mr Azad was addressing an election rally in Bhopal on Sunday.

"The provision of buying 18 aircraft from France and manufacturing the remaining ones in India was the mother of all 'Make in India' initiatives...The contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) could have generated jobs for 24,000-25,000 engineers," Mr Azad said.

The former union minister claimed that procuring the 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets from France under the new deal by the NDA government was a joke on the 'Make in India' initiative.

Mr Azad said that if 108 jets were made in the country by HAL, the state-run aerospace and defence company, as was proposed by the UPA, the country would never have had to depend on others.

In 2012, during the UPA tenure, India had planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France, with 108 others to be assembled in the country. The BJP-led government scrapped the UPA's plan in 2015 and announced that it would buy 36 "ready-to-fly" Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.

The Rafale controversy has been the Congress' big poll plank, alleging corruption in the high-profile defence deal. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, while campaigning in Rajasthan in October, urged Youth Congress workers to take the issue of "corruption" in the Rafale deal to the village level.

"The Congress president's focus was on exposing the BJP government, which is involved in corruption, like in the Rafale deal," Rajasthan Youth Congress president Ashok Chandna told news agency PTI. At several election rallies in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress chief also referred to the Rafale deal and said the Prime Minister can't escape the defence deal probe.