A day after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi launched a blistering attack on the government over the Rafale deal, the BJP on Saturday hit back by listing “major lies” peddled by the Congress chief on the defence agreement. The saffron party has repeatedly called Gandhi a “serial liar” and and “a manufacturer of fake news”. Listing the “lies” told by Rahul Gandhi on Rafale on their official Twitter handle, BJP said: “It’s difficult to track all his lies, but we’ve tried to track major lies peddled by him on #Rafale.”
The party accused Gandhi of saying that the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence as the offset partner. Gandhi has repeatedly accused the government of favouring Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as an offset partner instead of the public sector undertaking HAL. The BJP also accused Gandhi of indulging in “third-grade level propaganda on a sub-judice matter”
In its defence, the saffron party put out the Supreme Court verdict that said that the Modi government had no role to play. The apex court in December last year dismissed petitions seeking a court-monitored investigation in the deal, saying it found “no occasion to really doubt the process” of decision making, pricing and selection of offset partners.
The judges said, “We do not find any substantial material on record to show that this is a case of commercial favouritism to any party by the Indian government, as the option to choose the IOP (Indian Offset Partner) does not rest with the Indian government”.
The political slugfest was triggered after a French media report quoted former French president Francois Hollande as saying “we did not have a say in this…the Indian government proposed this service group and Dassault negotiated with (Anil) Ambani group. We did not have a choice, we took the partner who was given to us.” When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande speaking to news agency AFP said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.
BJP also targeted Gandhi for quoting different prices for the Rafale deal on multiple occasions.
Lie No.8: #LiarRahul said UPA negotiated price of Rs. 526/520/540 (one place, one price) crore per aircraft, while NDA settled for Rs.1,600 cr.
Analysis: Liar is comparing apples & oranges. Price negotiated by NDA is for a complete operational package; including Rafale aircraft.
— BJP (@BJP4India) February 9, 2019
On Friday, a media report from The Hindu triggered a political firestorm over the deal. Quoting the report, Gandhi accused the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) of holding “parallel negotiations” over the deal. The media report further stated that the Defence Ministry had objected to the “parallel negotiations” since it “weakened the negotiating position” of the Indian side.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sithraman, however, shot back saying “they are flogging a dead horse”, adding that “periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference.” She also accused the newspaper of “not carrying Defence Minister’s reply” to the note. She added that the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had replied to the letter asking the official to remain “calm” as everything was “alright”. “If a newspaper publishes a noting then the ethics of journalism will demand that the newspaper publishes the then Defence Minister’s reply as well,” she said.
Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, who had written the note dated November 24, 2015, told The Indian Express that the noting was not about “parallel negotiations” but about “parallel viewpoints” and that the PMO had not interfered in the final negotiations.