Prime Minister Narendra Modi today accused the Congress of insulting Nirmala Sitharaman, India's "first woman defence minister", in the Rafale controversy. Rahul Gandhi had earlier said that the prime minister "got a woman" to defend him in parliament instead of facing the debate on the fighter jet deal at the core of a huge political row.
"For the first time, a daughter of the county has become defence minister. It is a matter of pride. Our defence minister silenced all the opposition parties in parliament (on Rafale) and exposed their lies. They were so stunned that now they are insulting a woman defence minister. Not just the minister but they are insulting India's women power," PM Modi said at a rally in Agra in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, Rahul Gandhi had mocked PM Modi saying he told a woman to defend him on Rafale in parliament.
"The watchman with a 56-inch chest ran away and told a woman, Sitharaman ji, defend me. I won't be able to defend myself, defend me. For two and a half hours, the woman could not defend him. I had asked a straight question – answer yes or no – but she couldn't answer," said the Congress president, using the Hindi word 'mahila'' for woman.
Nirmala Sitharaman, 59, is the first full-time woman defence minister of the country, but Indira Gandhi was the first woman to hold the defence portfolio.
Earlier this week, Ms Sitharaman delivered a marathon rebuttal in parliament to Rahul Gandhi's allegations that PM Modi signed an overpriced deal for 36 Rafale jets to help industrialist Anil Ambani, whose inexperienced defence firm won an offset contract with Rafale-maker Dassault.
Rahul Gandhi kept accusing the prime minister of avoiding the debate by not attending parliament.
He also demanded a "yes or no" answer from the Defence Minister on whether the defence ministry or the Air Force raised objections when an earlier deal for 126 Rafale jets negotiated by the previous Congress-led UPA was scrapped.
The ruling BJP alleges that the previous deal didn't materialise because the Congress failed to score a lucrative deal.
Disclaimer: NDTV has been sued for 10,000 crores by Anil Ambani's Reliance Group for its coverage of the Rafale deal