In his sharpest attack yet on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal, Congress President Rahul Gandhi today said “former French president Francois Hollande is calling the Prime Minister of India a thief” and that the PM needs to break his silence. Calling the Rafale deal corrupt, Rahul Gandhi said it was “obvious that PM Modi is corrupt.”
“Former French president calls our PM a thief… What is staggering is that the Prime Minister is still silent on it. Not a single word from him,” Mr Gandhi said at a press conference this afternoon.
“It is very important for the prime minister now to either accept Mr Hollande’s statement or state that Mr Hollande is lying and tell what the truth is,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi’s attack comes a day after Francois Hollande told a French investigative journal that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the India partner for the 36 Rafale jet deal and that the French government wasn’t given a choice on the matter. Mr Hollande’s office reiterated his stand this morning in their reply to NDTV.
Mr Gandhi alleged that PM Modi got the contract for Mr Ambani to bail him out. “The prime minister himself has given a contract of Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani. Anil Ambani had a debt of Rs 45,000 crore and was bailed out by PM Modi,” he said.
Calling the Rafale deal corrupt, and accusing various Defence Ministers of this government of shielding PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi demanded a probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Rafale deal. He said Mr Hollande can also be called to testify by the JPC.
“It is clear why various defence ministers of this government have been lying; they want to protect PM Modi,” he said.
Shortly after, the Defence Ministry issued a statement reiterating that “the government has no role in the selection of Indian Offset partner which is a commercial decision of the Original Equipment Manufacturer.”
“Unnecessary controversies are being created following reports regarding a statement purportedly made by former French President, Francois Hollande,” it added.
Francois Hollande’s startling claims, which Rahul Gandhi’s latest attack is based on, have been contradicted by both the France government and Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale jet.
The French government had last night said they were in no manner involved in the choice of the Indian industrial partners for the deal, rather their role was just to ensure the delivery and quality of the aircraft. Dassault Aviation last night said that it was their choice to partner with the Reliance Group.
The Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal. Today, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the allegations against the government on the Rafale deal are baseless and that there is no point in raising controversies about the Rafale deal.
PM Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French president Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris. The opposition party has been accusing the government of choosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.
The Anil Ambani-led group is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset component of the Rafale deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure that business worth around Rs. 30,000 crores is generated for the Indian defence system. Reliance Defence is not making components for the Rafales ordered by India but is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.