New Delhi: The Congress today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of misusing defence planes for election campaign and alleged a scam, a charge refuted by the BJP.
The BJP said former prime ministers Manmohan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi- all from the Congress- also flew in defence aircraft for electioneering and sought an apology from the opposition party for its “baseless and unsubstantiated” allegations.
At a press conference, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad targeted Modi for his busy campaign in polls using official machinery and said he and his cabinet have become an “election contesting machine”.
They were not running the government, he claimed. He also hit out at Modi for his use of defence planes.
“It is a scam. This runs into several thousand crores. It is a burden on the government and there should be a debate on it,” Azad told reporters.
The BJP soon fielded Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad to take on the opposition party.
Indira Gandhi as prime minister flew in defence planes for 16 years for campaigning, so did Rajiv Gandhi and Manmohan Singh during their tenure but it becomes a problem if Modi also does it, Prasad said denouncing Azad and seeking an apology.
He noted that opposition parties, including the Jana Sangh- the BJP’s forerunner- in the past had gone to court over the matter. The court ruled later that the prime minister was a SPG-protectee and had a right to use defence planes for security reasons, he said.
“The allegations of the Congress are a lie. They are levelling baseless and unsubstantiated allegations,” Prasad said.
The prime minister travels in defence planes and MI8 choppers are also used, Azad said, claiming that it must have incurred a public expenditure of Rs 1,000 crore.
The Congress leader said the Election Commission allowed the prime minister to use defence aircraft and chopper free of cost, where the party does not have to pay.
But the Election Commission did not know that such a prime minister will come who will not alight from the aircraft and chopper for 24 hours during elections, he said.
“We want a prime minister and ministers who run the government of India, for which they have been elected. Today when there is any election no minister is available,” he said.