- Rahul Gandhi attacks PM Modi over ex-French president's revelation
- Francois Hollande has said India picked Anil Ambani for Rafale deal
- Rahul Gandhi says obvious that PM Modi corrupt, he must speak out
Former French President Francois Hollande's startling claim on the Rafale deal has snowballed into a huge war of words between the centre and the opposition in India. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, in his sharpest attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 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." Law Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad angrily responded that Rahul Gandhi had made a "shameful, irresponsible statement".
"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... 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," Mr Gandhi said at a press conference this afternoon.
Dismissing Rahul Gandhi's allegations, Mr Prasad alleged that there was pressure for extraneous considerations and "bribe" for not finalising the Rafale deal during the UPA rule despite holding negotiations for years. He also said Reliance and Dassault had entered into agreement as early as 2012 when UPA was in power.
In 2012, when Dassault signed the agreement with Reliance, the company was led by Mukesh Ambani. Anil Ambani is his younger brother. Whatever happened between the two brothers is their matter, Mr Prasad said.
Rahul Gandhi's attack came 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.
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.
Ravi Shankar Prasad sought to discredit the claim of Francois Hollande, saying that French journalists have spoken about his "conflict of interests". It is none of our concern, he then added.
The Defence Ministry also 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."
Francois Hollande's bombshell, which Rahul Gandhi's latest attack is based on, has 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.
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.