Opening a new front, the Congress yesterday moved the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) seeking an FIR as part of its multi-pronged attack on the Rafale deal but the Bharatiya Janata Party hit back by alleging that the previous government had cancelled the fighter jets deal with France as a company linked to Congress president Rahul Gandhis brother-in-law Robert Vadra was not accepted as the “middleman”.
While the Congress gave a memorandum to Central Vigilance Commissioner K V Chowdary seeking a probe into the “corruption” in the deal, Gandhi, who is in his Lok Sabha constituency Amethi, launched a virulent attack on Modi saying the country’s “chowkidar” (watchman) had committed “chori” (theft).
In a tweet, he made another veiled attack on Modi, calling him “India’s Commander in Thief.”
The BJP held two press conferences yesterday to respond to Congress allegations and launch a counter-tirade.
Party spokesman Sambit Patra referred to remarks of some Pakistani leaders to suggest that they wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed from office like Gandhi, while federal minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat sought to link the Rafale controversy to Vadra and controversial arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari.
Gandhi attacked Modi on the deal and other issues during a speech in Amethi.
“I raised it (Rafale issue) in parliament and Modi could not make eye-to-eye contact. Why did you purchase the fighter jets at three times the price?
“The country’s watchman indulged in theft,” said Gandhi, adding the “watchman” took out Rs30,000 crore from the pockets of soldiers and martyrs and gave it to an industrialist.
“Modi can speak about everything but not Rafale. He does not have the guts,” the Congress chief said, questioning Modi’s persistent silence on the issue despite repeated charges against him.
In his tweet, Gandhi also posted a video highlighting former French president Francois Hollande’s remarks to a French website that a private firm became a partner of Dassault Aviation at the suggestion of the Indian government.
Earlier, Ghulam Nabi Azad led a Congress delegation to meet the CVC seeking a probe into the Rafale deal, saying Modi had escalated its price by about 300% and in violation of the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP).
It urged the CVC to take cognisance and register an FIR and seize all the documents “before they were destroyed”.
The party also quoted revelations by Hollande, saying he has “exposed the web of corruption”.
“The stench of corruption and cronyism in the Rafale deal is nauseating, requiring urgent intervention,” the party said and endorsed former Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) chief T S
Raju’s call for making public the files relating to HAL’s work-share contract with Dassault.
The Congress also targeted Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman saying the deal “reeks of a huge scam”.
The party last Wednesday petitioned the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on the issue.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi held a press conference in the evening and accused the government of compromising India’s friendly ties with France by alleging a “collusion” between Hollande and Gandhi.
He slammed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assertions that the “CAG would study the pricing and take a view on whether the NDA government’s deal was better than the one UPA was negotiating”.
It also alleged that the Modi regime was trying to influence the CAG.
Shekhawat told reporters that Bhandari works as a middleman” in defence deals.
“His name had earlier appeared in how he arranged air tickets for Vadra and how he got his home interior work done,” he said.
Earlier, it was said Defence Minister Sitharaman would meet the media on the issue.
“He (Bhandari) is known to Vadra and he was seen with him in Dubai Defence Expo together,” Shekhawat said.
Targeting the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress, the BJP leader said “Vadra, the Gandhi family and the then government wanted that the Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation should have been done under Vadra’s company Offset India Solutions, which was formed in 2008.”
Claiming that Vadra’s company acts as a middleman in defence deals, the BJP leader said: “They (Vadra and Bhandari) represent themselves as middlemen at many defence expos but they have not got a big breakthrough yet. The then government wanted that the French firm should accept it (Vadra’s company) as the middleman. But since it did not materialise, the deal with Dassault was cancelled.”
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