‘His chief negotiator was in France’: Rahul Gandhi’s frontal Rafale attack on PM Modi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched yet another scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rafale deal case on Tuesday alleging that the irregularities happened on three fronts of “compromising national security, procedural lapses and corruption” in the multi-billion defence contract with France. Gandhi demanded probe in the Rafale deal challenging PM Modi to “an investigation if you have not done anything wrong.”

Quoting a media report claiming that industrialist Anil Ambani held a meeting with French defence ministry officials a fortnight ahead of the announcement of new Rafale deal during PM Modi’s visit to France in 2015, Gandhi said, “His chief negotiator was sitting in the French denfence minister’s office and telling them that draft of the contract was being prepared.”

The Congress president said it is now “black and white” that the prime minister shared defence secrets with a “private person” in order to benefit him.

Gandhi said, “Prime Minister compromised national security. He has given defence secrets to a private person. The second irregularity was procedural lapses, where he bypassed the defence ministry. And, the third issue is of corruption.”

“Action will be taken and no one will be spared (if the Congress is voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections),” Gandhi said at a press conference in New Delhi.

“Narendra Modi ji is acting as the middleman of Anil Ambani,” said Gandhi showing a copy of an email. “This email is clear. An Airbus executive wrote that Mr Anil Ambani met the French Defence Minister and told him 10 days before the Rafale deal was signed that he was going to get it,” Gandhi said.

“Now the prime minister needs to answer how did Anil Ambani know 10 days in advance of the Rafale deal? Defence Minister, HAL, Foreign Secretary didn’t know but Anil Ambani knew about it. If this is true then the prime minister is in violation of the Official Secrets Act. A criminal action must be initiated on this basis,” the Congress president said.

Stepping up the attack on the prime minister, Gandhi said, “This is now treason, Mr Narendra Modi is doing what spies do. He is informing somebody of a defence matter. He is under oath to protect these secrets.”

Gandhi also dismissed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Rafale deal which is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon. He said, “The CAG report is a worthless report. I would term it as a ‘Chowkidar Auditor General Report’. It is Narendra Modi’s report, written for the Chowkidar, on behalf of the Chowkidar, for the Chowkidar by the Chowkidar.”

The Congress had earlier questioned the CAG report on Rafale deal citing “conflict of interest”. The party said Rajiv Mehrishi, the current CAG of India, was part of the decision making process for the Rafale deal. Mehrishi was the finance secretary when the Rafale deal was signed.

The BJP retorted to the charge accusing the Congress of attacking the institution of the CAG. At his media briefing, Gandhi defended his party’s stand saying, “We are not questioning the institution. But the gentleman who is preparing CAG report was part of this decision making process.”

Gandhi also said the Supreme Court ruling on Rafale deal process in December last year has come under “question” in the light of new evidence. He alleged that the government “did not give all the information” to the apex court. “The Supreme Court judgment is open to question now,” he said.

Hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) seeking probe into the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court had sought the details pertaining to the decision making process and examined the documents submitted to it by the government. In its ruling the Supreme Court said the due process was followed and ruled out any commercial favouritism.

However, the opposition parties mounted attack on the government over a reference to the CAG report on Rafale deal in the Supreme Court judgment. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge contended that the CAG report was not yet ready and not tabled in Parliament. The government subsequently moved for a correction in the apex court ruling blaming the “factual error” on “misinterpretation” in the Supreme Court.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 12:16 IST

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