New Delhi: The political row over the Rafale jet deal escalated on Tuesday with the Congress dismissing as "manufactured lies" claims by the Dassault CEO that there was no wrong-doing and party chief Rahul Gandhi firing a fresh salvo at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Party leaders Randeep Surjewala and Anand Sharma joined Gandhi in accusing the government of a "cover-up". The nation needs a "fair investigation" and not "doctored explanations" on the fighter jet deal, Congress chief spokesperson Surjewala said.
He was responding to Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier's defence of the contract in a media interview. Trappier has claimed no wrong-doing in the Rs 58,000 crore deal asserting it was a clean deal. Trappier also claimed his company chose Anil Ambani firm Reliance Defence as an offset partner.
"Dictated interviews and manufactured lies cannot cover up corruption in the Rafale deal. The first rule of law is mutual beneficiaries and the co-accused's statements holds no value. The second rule is beneficiaries and accused cannot be a judge in their own case. Truth has a way of coming out. Mr Modi, the nation does not want doctored explanations," Surjewala said. "The fixed match between the Bharatiya Janata Party and Dassault Aviation will not hide the scam. The PR stunt that Eric Trappier and the Prime Minister Modi are doing will not cover up the layers of corruption in the Rafale deal," he alleged.
French aerospace major Dassault Aviation has partnered with Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence Ltd for delivering 36 Rafale fighter jets to the Indian Air Force(IAF). The Centre on Monday informed the Supreme Court that the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) as laid out by the UPA in 2013 was "completely followed" in the procurement of the 36 jets from France and the deal was subsequently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).
Mounting a fresh offensive against the prime minister, Gandhi tagged a media report with his tweet alleging that the government has thrown up more "wrong-doings" by Modi in the Rafale deal in its affidavit before the apex court.
The media report claimed the affidavit has made it clear that the government did not take the most basic steps that are fundamental to any procurement and which are spelt out in detail in the DPP-2013 which governs the purchase.
Gandhi in his latest tweet alleged that Modi has admitted to "theft" in the Rafale deal before the Supreme Court and changes in the contract without asking the IAF. There was no reaction from the government or the BJP on the fresh charges, though they have previously rejected all allegations over the Rafale deal. Modi ji has admitted to his theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit, he admitted to changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and put Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani's pocket. The picture is still to come my friend, Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi. Gandhi also raised the controversy over the Rafale deal at a poll rally in Chhattisgarh. Modi went to France with Anil Ambani, snatched Rafale contract from the HAL and gave it to him, Gandhi said in Raipur. The prime minister snatched Rs 30,000 cr from the poor, put it in Anil Ambani's pocket, Gandhi said, adding, "Modi works for very rich and not poor". Joining the attack, Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the government had embarked on a tardy cover-up of the scam. "The timing of Dassault CEO Eric Trappier's interview is significant, as elections are nearing. All the processes and procedures are post-facto after the prime minister had personally changed the parameters and brought down the number of aircraft from 126 to 36," Sharma alleged.
He said the deal was shrouded in secrecy and the government was using all its deals for a cover-up but the Congress is determined to bring the truth out. "We would urge the Supreme Court to seal all documents in the Rafale deal and conduct a forensic audit of the original tender. The Congress party will insist on the setting up of the JPC so that the truth comes out and the accountability is fixed," Sharma said. Anil Ambani's Reliance in previous statements has said the Indian government, French government, Dassault and Reliance have clarified on multiple occasions there is no offset contract for Rs 30,000 crore to Reliance as alleged by Congress.