- Arun Jaitley said ex-French president made contradictory remarks
- Francois Hollande had said France had no choice in Rafale partner
- Mr Jaitley took a swipe at Congress which has attacked Centre over Rafale
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today questioned former French President Francois Hollande's hugely controversial statement on the multi-billion-dollar Rafale fighter jet deal, saying "truth cannot have two versions". Pointing to Mr Hollande's contradictory statements on the deal, Mr Jaitley, in a blog post on Facebook, asserted that neither the Indian nor the French government played any role in the selection of industrialist Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the local partner by Rafale manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
Mr Jaitley's counter comes amid a political firestorm triggered by Mr Hollande's statement to a investigative website on Friday that the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner of French defence giant Dassault, and that France "did not have a choice" in the matter.
"He has, in a subsequent statement, said that he is 'not aware' if Government ever lobbied for Reliance Defence and that 'the partners chose themselves'," Mr Jaitley wrote. This, he said, "contradicts his first questionable statement which the French Government and Dassault have denied."
The former French premier, when asked whether India had pressured Reliance and Dassault to work together, told news agency AFP that he was unaware and "only Dassault can comment on this".
"His second statement in Montreal, Canada to AFP makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable," the Finance Minister said.
Mr Jaitley also took a swipe at the Congress which has seized Mr Hollande's statement to buttress its allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal.
"The Congress Party's official handle on 31.8.2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader "It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership." For the Congress Party to allege that a former President had been bribed by an Indian business group and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country," Mr Jaitley wrote.
The Congress was quick to dismiss Mr Jaitley's remarks.
Blog Min @arunjaitley has got it wrong again.Rafale Deal was finalised between @narendramodi & @fhollande .Bit convoluted by even Mr. Jaitley's usually stretched logic that @fholande would cut his nose to spite his face when he said that GOI presented it with a fait accompli— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) September 23, 2018
The government has firmly denied any role in the selection of Reliance Defence as a partner for Dassault while France said that it was "in no way involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners" for the contract. For its part, Dassault Aviation has said that the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) to fulfill offset obligations of the deal was its own.
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 accused 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.
(With inputs from Agencies)