- Congress claims it has audio recording of Manohar Parrikar on jet deal
- He said the allegation is a desperate attempt to fabricate facts
- Mr Parrikar was Defence Minister when the Rafale jet deal was signed
The Congress today claimed to have an audio recording of a Goa minister quoting Manohar Parrikar as saying that files related to the Rafale jet deal were "in his bedroom". Manohar Parrikar, who was defence minister before becoming Goa chief minister in 2017, tweeted that the audio clip was a "desperate attempt to fabricate facts". The minister supposedly on tape, Vishwajit Rane, also alleged that it was doctored.
Manohar Parrikar was defence minister when the deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed between India and France. In recent months, he has been severely unwell with a pancreatic condition, which has spurred opposition calls for his replacement as chief minister.
The Congress claimed that Mr Parrikar had said at a meeting of the Goa cabinet that no one could remove him as "all the Rafale papers are in my flat, in my bedroom". Vishwajit Rane, the Goa health minister, is on tape relating this conversation, claimed Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Mr Surjewala played an audio tape, the authenticity of which cannot be verified by NDTV, in which Vishwajit Rane is apparently talking to an unknown person about a three-hour cabinet meeting and saying "keep it confidential".
A voice said to be Mr Rane's says that the chief minister "made a very interesting statement, that I have all the information of Rafale in my bedroom". The other person is heard reacting: "What are you saying!" To which, the minister says: "...You can cross-check with somebody you are close to in the cabinet. This is something he said, that means he is holding them to ransom. . He said it is in my bedroom here only in my flat, each and every document on Rafale."
Mr Surjewala told reporters: "Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has the all the files relating to Rafale jet deal. The fashion in which every procedure was bypassed...it is all recorded in the files. Those files are with Mr Parrikar. Why are those files being hidden? We want the truth."
Mr Rane, a former Congress leader who joined the BJP in 2017, said: "The audio tape is doctored. The Congress has stooped to such a low level to doctor a tape to create miscommunication between the cabinet and chief minister. Mr Parrikar has never made any reference to Rafale or any documents. I have asked him for a criminal investigation into this."
The Supreme Court last month said there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process, delivering a huge reprieve to the government amid Congress allegations of corruption in the Rs. 59,000-crore contract. The court rejected a probe and dismissed petitions that had alleged that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help industrialist Anil Ambani's company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault. "There is no evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity," the court had said.
Former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with advocate Prashant Bhushan, today requested the Supreme Court to review its December 14 decision.
On Tuesday, in an interview to news agency ANI, PM Modi had said on Congress president Rahul Gandhi's repeated attacks on Rafale: "This is not an allegation against me personally, but an allegation against my government. If there is any allegation against me personally, let them dig who gave what, when and where and to whom."