Ailing Indian leader questions Rahul’s visit for ‘political gains’

Indian politics sunk to a new low ahead of elections after the president of Congress party Rahul Gandhi visited ailing chief minister of Goa and senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Manohar Parrikar, above, in Panaji on Tuesday.

Their meeting lasted just five minutes and Parrikar was touched when leader of the rival party enquired him about his health.

But the real purpose of Rahul’s visit became clear later in the day when he told party workers in Kochi that the former defence minister said he has nothing to do with the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal allegedly cleared by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani.

Media reports on the Kochi event quoting Rahul upset Parrikar as he never mentioned Rafale in his brief meeting with him.

A day earlier, Rahul talked about an audio tape in which a Goa minister allegedly claimed Parrikar possessed files relating to the Rafale deal.

On Wednesday, Parrikar sent a letter to Rahul accusing him of using his unscheduled visit to his office to make false statements for petty political gains.

He wrote that the two never discussed Rafael and false media reports caused him distress when he is fighting a life-threatening illness.

All procedures were followed in procuring the fighter jets keeping national security as top priority, he said.

He told Rahul to tell the truth and not use his visit to an ailing person “to feed political opportunism.”

Rahul responded by saying he did not share any details of their conversation in Goa with anyone.

In a Facebook post, Rahul said he was only referring to what was already available in the public domain during his Kochi speech.

He said Parrikar is loyal to Modi and he can understand the pressure on him to defend the prime minister.

Rahul’s efforts to rake up Rafale deal comes weeks after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Modi government on the procedures followed and the pricing.

In Parliament, Defence Minister Nirmala Seetharaman and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had given point-to-point rebuttal to charges levelled by Congress on the fighter jets deal. But instead of listening to their rebuttals, Congress MPs were flying paper planes in the House.