The Congress today lashed out at the government’s silence over the French investigation into the Rs 59,000-crore Rafale jet deal. The opposition party said according to documents available now, huge amounts of money were paid to middlemen in the deal, indicating that it was a vindication of its corruption allegations against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. The party had even hinged its campaign on the issue in the 2019 general elections — a strategy that many later said.
The controversy over the mega deal resurfaced yesterday with the Congress seeking a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) investigation after a news website reported that a French judge had been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial probe into alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the deal with India. The 2016 deal was for the sale of 36 Dassault-built fighter jets.
In a mocking tweet posted in Hindi today, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi asked why Prime Minister Modi’s government wasn’t ready for a JPC probe. The options he provided as answer were: “guilt conscience,” “friends, too, need to be protected”, “JPC doesn’t need a Rajya Sabha seat”, and “all the options are right”. This was preceded by another Hindi tweet yesterday, in which he posted part of a proverb referring to a guilty thief.
Mr Gandhi had, in the run up to the 2019 Parliamentary elections, attacked Prime Minister Modi with the “Chowkidar chor hai” (The watchman himself is the thief) slogan in the context of the alleged corruption in the Rafale deal. However, not only didto dislodge the BJP from power, its own performance showed only a marginal improvement from 2014.
Today, party spokesperson Pawan Khera said at a press conference in the national capital that the Rafale deal was an inter-governmental one between India and France and one of the two countries had initiated a probe while the other was yet to even comment.
“It’s been 24 hours since France has ordered a probe on matters like corruption, influence peddling, money laundering, favouritism. The whole nation, the whole world is now looking to New Delhi. Why the silence?” Mr Khera said.
“Now it is getting clearer that in the Rafale deal we have bought an item that costs Rs 570 crore at Rs 1,670 crore,” he said.
Suggesting that the deal was now rapidly heading towards being an “open and shut” case, the Congress spokesperson alleged that anti-corruption clauses from the deal were removed. He also accused middlemen of being involved in the proceedings.
“In April, it was revealed that according to documents seized from a middleman arrested in another case by the Enforcement Directorate, crores and crores of rupees were gifted to this middle man in the Rafale deal. We don’t know what the ED did with those documents, but France is now probing them,” Mr Khera said.
The BJP had yesterday termed the Congress’s attacks “lies”.
“The way Rahul Gandhi is behaving, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he is being used as a pawn by competing companies. He has been lying right from the beginning on the issue. Probably, he is acting as an agent or some member of Gandhi family has been for a competing company,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had said.
He cited a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a Supreme Court verdict, both of which had found nothing wrong in the defence deal between India and France, to reject allegations of the Congress.