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Asserting that there’s “a clear-cut case of corruption against the Prime Minister of India”, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday, 11 October, renewed his attack on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale controversy.
This came a day after a fresh investigation by French news organisation Mediapart unearthed an internal Dassault document, according to which “a senior management figure of the French group told staff representatives that the joint venture with Reliance was agreed as a ‘compensation’ in the Rafale deal and it was both ‘imperative and obligatory’ for Dassault in securing the fighter contract”.
Demanding a probe against PM Modi, Gandhi said on Thursday:
“India knows that Narendra Modi has put Rs 30,000 crore in Anil Ambani’s pocket. I would like to clearly tell the youth of the country that the PM of India is a corrupt man.”
The Congress president also questioned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s trip to France, alleging it is part of a huge government “cover-up” on Rafale.
“Why has the defence minister suddenly rushed to France to Rafale’s plant? What is the emergency?”Rahul Gandhi, Congress President
The Fresh Investigation
Giving details of the internal document from Dassault, Mediapart said in its report:
“The document contains a summary by staff representatives of a presentation of the Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint-venture plant in Nagpur made to them on 11 May 2017 by Dassault Aviation’s Chief Operating Officer, effectively the group’s second most-powerful executive, Loik Segalen. According to the summary, Segalen told the representatives: ‘It was imperative and obligatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this compensation in order to obtain the Rafale India export contract.’”
The report also detailed how a site in Nagpur, meant to manufacture parts for the Rafale jets, “remains largely unbuilt”.
On 21 September, former French President Francois Hollande had told the same media house that France was not given an option of choosing a local partner for Dassault Aeronautics. Hollande had added that it was the Indian government which had proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
The Congress had earlier demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) in the Rafale deal but it was rejected by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
‘Reliance Was Freely Chosen,’ Dassault Reacts
The French company, on Thursday, 11 October, reacted to the report saying that they had “freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group”.
According to a statement released by Dassault:
“Within the framework of September 2016 Inter-Govt Agreement between France and India, Dassault Aviation sold 36 Rafale aircraft to India. In compliance with Indian regulations (Defence Procurement Procedure), Dassault Aviation committed to offsets worth 50 percent of value of purchase. In order to deliver some of these offsets, Dassault Aviation has decided to create a joint venture. Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This joint-venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created February 10, 2017.”
The Murky Rafale Deal
In September, the former French President stirred a controversy when he told Mediapart that that it was the Indian government which had proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence.
“We did not have a choice. We took the interlocutor who was given to us.”Francois Hollande, Former President, France
The statement by Hollande triggered demands from opposition parties in India for an investigation.
He reiterated his statement, to AFP, when he said, “Reliance Group had appeared as part of a ‘new formula’ in negotiations over the Rafale deal, decided by the Modi government after it came to power.”
Congress Alleges Govt ‘Manipulated’ Rafale Deal Process
Earlier on Wednesday, the Congress had accused the Modi government of “manipulating” the process of Rafale fighter jet agreement by “punishing” bureaucrats who raised objections to the deal and rewarding “obliging officials”, as Gandhi raised questions on Sitharaman’s France visit.
Taking to Twitter, Gandhi alleged that “work has begun” to justify the prime minister’s decision to buy Rafale fighter aircraft.
Sitharaman leaves for France on a three-day visit, which comes in the backdrop of a big controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.
Rahul Gandhi Lying, Mocking National Security: BJP
The BJP on Thursday, 11 October, accused Gandhi of mocking national security and said he is trying to build his political career by spreading lies on the Rafale fighter jet deal.
Hitting out at Gandhi over his allegations that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is corrupt, BJP national spokesperson Sambit Patra said the Congress president himself comes from a family of middlemen.
His family earned money from every defence deal that took place before 2014, Patra alleged, adding that Gandhi and his party had jeopardised the defence of the country.
He has been lying and mocking national security, the BJP spokesperson added.
Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa has termed the Rafale Deal a “game changer” but Gandhi is saying just the opposite, he said.
Now, the people of the country will decide who to believe in, the air chief marshal or Gandhi, Patra added.
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