Rahul Gandhi, who has been consistent with his attack on the ruling BJP over the controversial Rafale jet deal, will meet the employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the state-run defence manufacturer, which he alleged was ignored to favour a rookie firm picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The meeting has been fixed for Saturday at the HAL’s headquarter in Bengaluru.
In an earlier tweet, the Congress chief had sympathised with those who worked for the HAL and their families and promised justice in the alleged corruption in the massive $8.6 billion deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
The Congress has been alleging that PM Modi closed the deal without any transparency to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani, whose debt-ridden firm became Dassault’s offset partner in India. Dassault, the company that manufactures the Rafale fighter, has to invest 50 per cent of the overall value of the deal or Rs. 30,000 crore in partnering with defence manufacturers in India.
The BJP has dismissed Congress’s allegations saying that the party has run out of issues to point fingers at the government and therefore, raking up the Rafale issue to gain political mileage.
Amid allegations and counter-allegations, former French president Francois Hollande, who negotiated the Rafale deal with PM Modi, said they weren’t given any choice. “…it was the Indian government that proposed Reliance” he had said.
But he let Dassault to comment on whether it was pressured to collaborate with Mr Ambani’s firm. Dassault denied any pressure or influence.
Mr Hollande’s admission was lapped up by the Congress chief who alleged that PM Modi “who came to remove corruption has himself given Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani”.
The BJP retorted that nothing else could be expected from a leader whose “entire family” is buried in scams.
The deal to buy Rafale fighters was signed by the NDA government with France in 2016 after the previous Congress government’s negotiations were scrapped. The Congress-led UPA’s planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from Dassault Aviation, with 108 to be assembled in India by the HAL in Bengaluru.
But according to the new deal, India would buy 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets.