Stepping up its attack on Rahul Gandhi, who has been criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, the ruling BJP today said the Congress President is a "serial liar" and a "manufacturer of fake news". The BJP's broadside came hours after Dassault Aviation put out a detailed clarification and said its joint venture with Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence represented only around only 10 per cent of the offset investments as part of the 36 fighter jet contract.
Union minister Piyush Goyal said the French government and Eric Trappier, the chief executive officer of Dassault Aviation, the company that manufactures Rafale jets, have "exposed" Mr Gandhi's claims. Mr. Trappier told news agency AFP that Dassault Aviation's joint venture with Anil Ambani's company represented only 10 per cent of the offset investments and his company is in talks with about 100 Indian firms for offset partnerships for the Rs 59,000 crore deal.
Under Indian defence procurement rules, foreign companies winning contracts must "offset" or reinvest half the total value -- in this case around Rs 30, 000 crore - in joint ventures or purchases with Indian firms.
Mr Goyal said the Congress president was raising corruption charges in the Rafale deal to create a wrong perception against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"An issue-less party and its leadership bereft of truth are no substitute to Mr Modi and his good governance," Mr Goyal asserted. Mr Gandhi has kept the heat on the government over the Rafale deal. Soon after a French media report said Dassault had to select Anil Ambani's company for a joint venture as a "mandatory" trade-off to bag the contract, Mr Gandhi had called for an investigation and declared that PM Modi "is corrupt" and the "PM of Anil Ambani."
A report by French portal Mediapart said a top Dassault official, Loik Segalen, had explained to his staff at a presentation last year that the joint venture with Reliance Defence was "imperative and obligatory" for Dassault Aviation to obtain the "contract for Rafale from India."
"It is absolutely clear that the prime minister is corrupt. I repeat, the prime minister of India is a corrupt man... and sadly, his entire campaign was on fighting corruption," Mr Gandhi said at a press conference on October 11.
Mr Goyal charged: "People have been of late seeing activities of a 'serial liar,' with an 'issue-less' party thinking that it can repeat lie after lie to make it sound like truth."
Mr Goyal said the government has maintained "highest standards of transparency and integrity in the deal" to buy 36 fighter aircraft from Rafale. He maintained that the Modi government has negotiated a better deal with the French firm than previous Congress-led UPA government had managed.