Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday asked the media why it was not posing questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who “changed the Rafale deal to benefit one businessman.”
Mr. Gandhi also asked why questions were not put to the Prime Minister on BJP president Amit Shah’s son, Jay Shah, whose company was reported to have witnessed a 16,000-fold jump in its turnover. “I want to ask, why don’t you question the Prime Minister over the Rafale deal,” Mr. Gandhi told journalists at the Congress headquarters after meeting office-bearers of the All India Unorganised Workers’ Congress.
The meet was to discuss how the Congress could reach out to unorganised workers who make up 93 per cent of India's workforce.
But Mr. Gandhi’s comments on the Rafale deal took centre-stage and came after a series of critical tweets on Thursday morning where he described the aircraft deal as “loot.”
Raising questions about Dassault Aviation entering into a joint venture with Reliance Defence Limited, an Anil Ambani-owned company, Mr. Gandhi tweeted, “Can you explain ‘Reliance’ on someone with nil experience in aerospace for the Rafale deal? Self-‘Reliance’ is obviously a critical aspect of ‘Make in India.’”
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad rubbished the allegations levelled by Mr. Gandhi. “They are finding it difficult to accept that there has been no case of corruption in the three-year rule of the Narendra Modi government,” said Mr. Prasad.
On Tuesday, Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, in a press conference, had alleged that the government violated the defence procurement procedure (DPP) in the Rafale deal.
The crux of the allegation is that after Mr. Modi’s trip to France in April 2015, his government cancelled the earlier Rafale deal signed by the UPA that had made India’s defence public sector undertaking, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), a partner of Dassault Aviation to make 118 Rafale aircraft in India through a transfer of technology clause. Once this deal was scrapped on July 30, 2016, a new $ 8.7 billion deal was signed on September 23 last year.
Just 10 days later, on October 3, 2016, Reliance Defence Limited entered into a joint venture with the French fighter plane maker.
The Congress also alleged that the joint venture helped Reliance get business (under the offset clause) worth ₹30,000 crore, a claim rebutted by Reliance.
Baseless, says Reliance
Reliance Defence, in a statement, called the allegations “baseless and unfounded” and asked the Congress to correct its facts or face legal action.
“Government policy issued on 24 June 2016 allows for 49% FDI in the Defence Sector under the automatic route, without any prior approval. No approvals from the Union Cabinet or CCS were required for the formation of the aforesaid Joint Venture company under the automatic route,” the statement said.