New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi met French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday and discussed with him issues that affect liberal democracies including fake news.
Mr Gandhi was accompanied by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, when he met with the visiting French president.
The Congress chief, however, did not raise the Rafale fighter jet deal with Mr Macron, party sources said.
The Congress has been attacking the BJP government on the defence deal, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of causing loss to the state exchequer by buying the fighter jets at inflated rate.
“Yesterday, I met with French President @EmmanuelMacron. We discussed a range of issues common to our liberal democracies, including fake news.
“I look forward to building on this meeting and to collaborating with him on global challenges such as Climate Change,” Mr Gandhi tweeted today, posting a picture with Mr Singh and Mr Macron.
Asked about the meeting and why Mr Gandhi did not raise the Rafale deal issue, Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala said the party presidents always meet visiting heads of state. The Congress has a history of maintaining a relationship with visiting heads of state in national interest.
“As far as the Rafale deal is concerned, it has six serious flaws which go to the root of the matter and is pointing towards a brewing scam in procurement of aircraft and compromise on national security,” he alleged.
The Congress leader said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman refused to disclose the price for the fighter jets citing threat to national security, but Dassault Aviation in its Annual Report of 2016 as also of 2017 says that they sold 36 Rafale aircraft for 7.5 Billion USD or Rs 1,670 crore per aircraft.
The same aircraft was sold to Egypt and Qatar 11 months at Rs 1,319 crore per aircraft and there is a clear cut loss of Rs 12,632 crore to the state exchequer, he said.
The Rafale deal signed after an international bidding was opened finally on December 12, 2012 and the UPA price as per information in public domain was about Rs 526 crore.
“The simple question that 132 crore people want to know is why did you buy Rs 526 crore aircraft for Rs 1,670 crore – over 300 pc extra. The loss to exchequer if calculated notionally would be Rs 41,000 crore.
“Why did the prime minister bypass the Defence Procurement Procedure which looks at price discovery through contract negotiation committee and price negotiation committee and nobody in this country can violate that principle,” he asked.
Mr Surjewala also asked why the prime minister did not take prior approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security.
“Why did the prime minister deny to India transfer of technology for manufacture of twin engine Rafale fighter aircraft and the Defence Minister lie to the nation on February 7, 2018 when she issued a Press Release and a statement saying that as far as Rafale aircraft is concerned, no off-set partner has been chosen by the vendor, Dassault Aviation,” he said.
Mr Surjewala said, “If the Defence Minister is going to lie to the nation through her teeth, if the prime minister is going to dupe and mislead, if the PM is going to violate the Defence Procurement Procedure and CCS, if the PM is going to supersede the PSU HAL in favour of a private company, then who is going to defend India’s interests?.”
“We need 45 air squadrons, we only have 32 air squadrons, by the time these aircraft come we will have 23 air squadrons only.
“How will we take on the might of our neighbours who can possibly any time challenge our borders as also our air space? These are questions to which the PM and the defence minister have adopted a complete Maun-Vrat’. I dare them to answer these in public,” Mr Surjewala said.