New Delhi: Former defence minister A K Antony claimed Friday it was "shocking" that the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) was conducting parallel negotiations on the Rafale deal and alleged it had "special interests to protect".
"This is shocking to me. In the defence negotiations, only the Defence Ministry is involved," the senior Congress leader told reporters outside Parliament.
"Never in the history of Government of India it has happened like that. What is the special interest of the PMO?... Why did the PMO take such a special interest in this case? They have special interests to protect. They want to favour somebody," he alleged.
Antony was reacting to a report published by The Hindu newspaper on Friday that the Defence Ministry raised strong objections to "parallel discussions" conducted by the PMO during the negotiations over the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal between India and France.
"Some serious thing is wrong there. Otherwise, the PMO has no role in price negotiations. It is the duty entirely of the Defence Ministry and armed forces. Only they do these kind of negotiations," Antony said.
He added that the government should immediately accede to the opposition's demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) and the latter should meet and go through all the records. He also claimed that "the PMO has something to hide".
Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded that a JPC be formed to look into the deal.
"Not only should a JPC be formed, but it should submit its report before the general elections, even if it has to sit everyday. The country has suffered a great loss...Not one aircraft has come to India and this is for the first time in history that the process of defence acquisition has been bypassed and a parallel negotiation has taken place," he alleged.
Sharma claimed that the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar was in the know of the deal.