Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of having altered the entire Rafale fighter plane deal “to help a businessman”. His charge came days after his party alleged that a “huge scam is brewing” in the procurement of the 36 fighter jets from France and accused the Prime Minister of promoting interests of Reliance Defence Limited.
At a press meet after he attended a meeting of the newly-formed All India Unorganised Workers’ Congress at the AICC headquarters, Rahul did not take questions from mediapersons. He instead asked, “Tell me one thing. You ask me so many questions and I answer them frankly. Why don’t you ask Modiji about the Rafale deal? And why don’t you ask questions about Amit Shah’s son… as to what is happening…. I will happily answer whatever questions you ask me… but the Prime Minister who changed the entire Rafale deal to help a businessman… why don’t you ask him about that… I want to ask you that.”
Rahul also took to Twitter to raise questions regarding the deal, tweeting, “Can you explain “Reliance” on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal?” “Self “Reliance” is obviously a critical aspect of ‘Make in India’,” he added.
The Congress had on Tuesday alleged that the 36 Rafale aircraft are being bought at an “inflated price” and claimed the government had gone ahead with the deal without the transfer of technology. Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala had accused the Prime Minister of promoting interests of Reliance Defence Limited.
“Why was this done by the Prime Minister bypassing the interests of a reputed public sector undertaking like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited? Why has the joint venture for the biggest-ever Indian defence deal between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Limited not gone through the proper procedure of approval by the Union Cabinet, Cabinet Committee on Security and Foreign Investment Promotion Board?” he had asked.
Reliance Defence Limited had issued a statement reacting to the charges. Referring to the allegation that the Prime Minister promoted its interests, it had said, “the Joint Venture between Reliance Aerostructure Ltd and Dassault Aviation is a bilateral agreement between two private companies. Dassault Aviation selected Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as its joint venture partner. The Indian Government has no role to play in this.”
On allegations that proper procedure was not followed, it had said, “the 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.”