Congress links Rafale deal to delay in setting up Lokpal

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

"This is the beginning," Rahul Gandhi told reporters in Amethi, and "the truth will be before you and you can judge".

NEW DELHI: The Congress upped the ante on the Modi government over the Rafale deal on Tuesday, saying the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue showed why the anti-corruption ombudsman Lokpal was not constituted during his tenure.

The Congress also asked the prime minister to come out with the truth in the case and bring 'sachhe din' (day of truth) at least, instead of the promised 'achhe din' (good days) that never came.

It also said that the ruling party, instead of coming out with the truth in the Rafale deal, was resorting to abuse and mud-slinging and asked Modi whether he was "(Reliance Defence chief) Ambani's PM or the country's prime minister".

Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is in his Amethi Lok Sabha constituency, said more facts on the Rafale fighter deal will be out soon, while telling the youth there that they lost jobs as a related contract went to the Reliance Group rather than the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) which has a unit here.

"This is the beginning," he told reporters in Amethi, and "the truth will be before you and you can judge".

Reminding his constituents that a HAL unit was located in Amethi district, he repeated the charge that the Rafale deal's offset contract "wrongly" went to Anil Ambani's Reliance group instead of the public sector HAL.

"The youth should understand that employment opportunities have been snatched from HAL and from you all," he said.

Targeting the prime minister, Gandhi said Modi had claimed he wanted to be the country 'chowkidar' (watchman). "But he put Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani's pocket."

"The money which belonged to the youth and IAF was snatched from them and put in Ambani's pocket," he said.

Gandhi also took to Twitter to say that he understands the pain of jawans, Air Force officers, the families of martyred pilots as well as Hindustan Aeronautics Limited workers and will work to bring to justice all those who dishonoured and stole from them.

He addressed them all on Twitter in his apparent attack against the Narendra Modi government on the issue.

Congress leader Randeep Surjewala rejected the BJP's claim that Gandhi wanted the Rafale deal to be scrapped to help a firm linked to his brother-in-law Robert Vadra and said the Modi government was responding to the alleged "scam" with abuses and mud-slinging.

On Monday, the BJP alleged that the Congress president was involved in a "conspiracy, internationally" and former French president Francois Hollande was part of the "nexus" to sabotage the Rafale deal.

Responding to the charge, Surjewala said, "The country has heard the tale of 'Ali Baba aur Chaalis Chor', now it is asking that when will Modi Baba and 'Chaalis Chor' answer," Surjewala said in a word play on the folk tale "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves".

"Are you Ambani's PM, or the country's prime minister?" he also asked.

Former union minister Kapil Sibal alleged corruption in the fighter jet deal, saying it has now become clear from the silence of the Modi government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on why it did not constitute the Lokpal during its tenure.

"When we look at these undisputed facts on Rafale scam, we will know why Lokpal was never constituted. Had Lokpal been there, the truth would have come out," he told reporters.

"If not 'achhe din', at least bring 'sachhe din' now by speaking the truth on the issue," he said.

"We only want to hear what the prime minister has to say. He should come out with the facts of the deal," he demanded.

Narrating the chronology of events from the decision to buy 36 aircraft off-the-shelf from Dassault and the signing of the inter-governmental agreement, the former union minister said it points to a "conspiracy".

Sibal said neither the foreign ministry, defence minister, nor Dassault knew what the prime minister will be doing in France during his visit in April 2015.

On April 10, 2015, the prime minister announced to buy 36 Rafale aircraft off-the-shelf and this is undisputed fact, he said.

"Who knew that Prime minister Modi would change the deal? Who knew what Prime Minister Modi said to President Hollande. Only Hollande and Modi knew what transpired during their meeting...the prime minister should say what happened at the meeting. We want him to come out with the facts on the Rafale deal," he said.

Sibal alleged that "this is corruption that India has never seen" and said no prime minister has ever gone to another country and signed a defence deal. "This is contrary to the democratic way of functioning. You don't buy armaments like this," he said.

On August 24, 2016, he said Cabinet committee on Security (CCS) clearance was taken, which should have been taken before hand, after the deal was finalised on April 10, 2015 and on September 23, 2016 an inter-governmental agreement was signed. The same day the offset agreement was also signed.

On October 3, 2016, Reliance Aerostructure and Dassault formed a joint venture in which Reliance had a share of 51 per cent and Dassault would have 49 per cent, he claimed.

"What was the benefit of sidelining HAL? Or who benefitted from it?" he asked.

The Congress leader said, "the PM thinks that he is entitled to do what he likes because he owns 1.3 billion people and he can do what he wants to do with them. That is the mindset of our Prime Minister. That is not acceptable."

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