Congress leader Rahul Gandhi recently hit out at PM Modi, alleging that the latter had "bought two aircraft worth Rs 8000 crores" even as the country kept China at bay and fought against the COVID-19 pandemic. Asked about travelling on a cushioned tractor during his rally in Punjab, Gandhi had wondered why nobody was questioning the new Air India One planes.
It was strange, he said, that nobody was questioning the procurement of VVIP Boeing 777 but everyone was being "quick to point to the `gaddi' which some well-wisher had put on a tractor for him".
Claim: PM Modi has bought two aircraft worth Rs 8000 crores
As per the claims made, PM Modi has spent thousands of crores of rupees from the taxpayers' money to buy two aircraft worth Rs 8000 crores. Allegedly he been motivated by the fact that US President Donald Trump had use of Air Force One.
Facts: PM Modi does not own the plane, and the procurement process was initiated prior to his term in office
According to a PTI report, officials said the total cost of purchase and retrofitting the two planes has been estimated to be around Rs 8,400 crore.
While Modi as the Prime Minister will indeed be using the plane from July next year, this is not his personal or private plane. It is an aircraft for the use of the PM. Just as Air Force One was earlier used by Barack Obama and is now used by Donald Trump, the new VVIP aircraft will be used by Modi and then, his successors. It is owned by the government.
According to an ANI report that quote government sources, the process for procuring these aircraft began around a decade ago under the UPA government and the Modi government has simply brought this process to a logical conclusion.
As an ANI article quotes sources to say: The process of acquisition of two new aircraft for the travel of VVIPs commenced in 2011 when upon the direction of the Group of Ministers (GOM), a meeting of the Committee of Secretaries (CoS) was held wherein it was decided that an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) would examine the available options for long-term arrangement of VVIP aircraft.
However, it must be mentioned that the 2018 budget had allocated a sum of Rs 4,469.50 crore for payment towards two Boeing 777-300 ER (extreme range) aircraft that would be used for VVIP operations. In 2020, the Finance Ministry allocated a total of Rs 810.23 crore for the purchase of the two new aircraft on top of more than 4,000 crore allocated by the government over the past two years.
Verdict: Misleading claim
Gandhi's claim that the PM "has bought two aircraft worth Rs 8000 crores" is misleading, as it implies that this plane was bought by Modi for his own use and that he has ownership over the same.
The planes in question however belong to the government and is for the use of the Prime Minister of India for official purposes. It will be used by Modi's successors in office too.
The two planes are a significant upgrade on their predecessors technologically speaking, and will transport the PM, President and Vice President.