Rahul Gandhi demands probe against Modi in Rafale deal

New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses the crowd during a protest over SC/ST atrocities bill, at Jantar-Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday, Aug 9, 2018. (PTI Photo/Ravi Choudhary) (PTI8_9_2018_000100B)

NEW DELHI: Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi picked up from where he left off last night, demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi be investigated in the NDA government’s deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets.

“I am not alleging anything anymore… government documents are saying it for themselves,” he said, referring to documents which the government told the Supreme Court yesterday, were stolen.

The government’s admission proved that the papers were “real”, Mr Gandhi told reporters at a press conference this morning. “The files clearly name the Prime Minister and state the PMO’s role in the Rafale deal. They have accepted that these papers were stolen, thereby confirming that these are authentic… so where is the doubt. This is proof,” Mr Gandhi said.

PM Modi, he said, “performed bypass surgery” in the Rafale deal. The purchase was delayed to benefit Anil Ambani,” Mr Gandhi said. “It is now the court’s job and the government’s job to ensure that justice is done… You can charge anything you want on anyone, but also press charges on the Prime Minister,” he added.

The BJP said it was “unfounded, absolutely shameful allegations on the Prime Minister”. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Mr Gandhi “will only listen when Pakistan certifies the Rafale deal. He believes in Pakistan more than in India’s forces”.

The Congress has alleged that the government accepted an overpriced deal in 2016 and overlooked public sector aviation firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited so that industrialist Anil Ambani’s rookie firm Reliance Defence could bag an offset contract. The government, Dassault and Anil Ambani have denied the allegations.

Yesterday, during a hearing on Rafale at the Supreme Court — which has been requested to reopen the case — the government said classified documents related to the deal were stolen from the defence ministry. The petitioners — who have sought a review of the top court’s December verdict that endorsed the process followed in the deal — had accessed those papers illegally, the government said.

The government had also warned about the possibility of the Official Secrets Act being invoked against the English daily The Hindu and news agency ANI, which had published reports on basis of the papers.

Whether or not the papers were “is a different thing”, what is important is that justice must be done on the truth that is written on that piece of paper, Mr Gandhi said.

In its report, The Hindu said the defence ministry had objected to the “parallel negotiations” for Rafale jets by the Prime Minister’s Office. It cited an internal note of the ministry, which said: “parallel discussions by the PMO has weakened the negotiating positions by the MoD and the negotiating team”. Another report by The Hindu yesterday said the deal became more expensive for India because of France’s refusal to provide bank guarantees.

Reacting to the government’s charge, The Hindu’s N Ram said documents related to the Rafale deal were published in public interest and nobody would get any information on the sources who provided them.