In one of his sharpest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday said The Hindu report about parallel negotiations made Mr. Modi’s direct involvement “crystal clear” and proved that the “Prime Minister was a thief.”
He said the new revelations had put the Supreme Court’s Rafale judgment in question, and claimed that its ruling would have been different if the government had supplied it the document, which was quoted by The Hindu .
Proceedings in the Rajya Sabha were washed out as Opposition members forced repeated adjournments over the Rafale issue.
In the Lok Sabha, Congress members forced a brief adjournment, prompting Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to reply.
“Today, in The Hindu newspaper, it is absolutely black and white that the Prime Minister himself was carrying out parallel negotiations with the French,” Mr. Gandhi said at a press conference in the party headquarters.
“Here is a most important line, the Defence Secretary of India says, ‘It is desirable that such discussion be avoided by the PMO [Prime Minister’s Office] as it undermines our negotiating positions seriously.’ Now, realise one thing, when an officer puts this on a piece of paper, he is putting that for a reason. He is clearly saying here that the Prime Minister has bypassed us and the Prime Minister is directly carrying out a negotiation,” said Mr. Gandhi reading out from the document published in the news report.
Call to armed forces
Mr. Gandhi sought to reach out to the armed forces personnel by directly addressing them through his press conference. “I want to speak to every member of the armed forces of this nation... Here, it is absolutely clear that the Prime Minister has stolen ₹30,000 crore of your money, bypassed a process, and given it to his friend Mr. Anil Ambani,’’ Mr. Gandhi said.
“Please take a look at this…friends in the Air Force, Generals, pilots…it is written clearly here that the Prime Minister is a thief. He has stolen ₹30,000 crore from you,” said Mr. Gandhi and quickly added, “I am using strong words, I don’t like using strong words, but, I am forced to use this word because it is the truth.”
Citing it as ‘an open and shut case’ of the Prime Minister’s guilt in the Rafale deal, Mr. Gandhi also accused the government of lying to the Supreme Court.
“They lied to the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court had this paper work, do you think the Supreme Court would have given the judgment that they gave? This was withheld from the Supreme Court, of course. So that entire judgment is also in question, that judgment is now completely in question,” he said.
“It is absolutely corporate warfare between corporates and the Defence Ministry and Mr. Narendra Modi is the representative of Mr. Anil Ambani,” he said, countering the government’s attack that the Congress chief is part of a corporate war to scuttle the Rafale deal.
He also denied the government’s charge that he was rattled because of the action against his brother-in-law Robert Vadra.
“Whatever inquiry you want to do, you do it. You implement the law. Robert Vadra, P. Chidambaram — you implement the law on everyone. No problem. But you also give answers on the Rafale matter,” he told reporters with Mr. Chidambaram seated by his side.
The Congress not only kept the pressure on the Modi government through the day but also responded to the government’s claim that The Hindu report didn’t reveal the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s file noting of the officials ‘over-reacting.’
“The note which has been released by the government actually indicts the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s Office much more than the original newspaper report,” former Union Minister Manish Tewari told a press conference.