- Congress accused Centre of promoting Anil Ambani's firm's interests
- Reliance Defence Limited threatened to sue Congress if it doesn't retract
- Congress says Centre negotiated overpriced defence deal with French firm
"Self "Reliance" is obviously a critical aspect of "Make in India," Rahul Gandhi tweeted and also, "Can you explain "Reliance" on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal?"
Mr Gandhi also took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he has in the past accused of running a "suit-boot ki sarkar" or government for the rich. "Modi ji - nice touch removing the suit. What about the loot?" tweeted the Congress vice president, who later said to reporters in the capital, "You ask me so many questions & I answer you properly, why don't you ask the PM about Rafale deal? He changed the whole deal for benefit of one businessman."
The Congress has accused the government of causing "insurmountable loss" to the public exchequer with its deal for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets by Dassault to the Indian Air Force. The opposition party says the BJP government has agreed to pay for each Rafale aircraft, three times the price that was negotiated in 2012 by the previous UPA government it led.
Under a clause of the government's Rafale deal with the French company, Reliance Defence has entered a joint venture with Dassault to manufacture aircraft components. The Congress has alleged that that the government has promoted "the interests of one industrial group, i.e Reliance Defence Limited, which has led to the company tying up and entering into a joint venture with Dassault Aviation worth Rs.30,000 crores?"
Rafale was the lowest bidder in an international tender in 2012, but the final deal for 126 aircraft was never closed by the UPA government. By the time the BJP-led government came to power in 2014, the deal was deadlocked, with Dassault refusing to certify key components of the jet which were to be built by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, unless a series of conditions were met.
With no deal around the corner and with successive Air Chiefs telling the government that India's air defence would be seriously affected without the jets being inducted, PM Modi had announced an off-the-shelf purchase from France during a visit to Paris in April 2015.
The first Rafale jets are to be inducted into the Indian Air Force from 2019 onwards.