Congress president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted as businessman Anil Ambani’s middleman and there was no doubt that the PM was a corrupt man. Gandhi’s statement came after a report by The Indian Express stated that Ambani met French defence officials before the PM announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft from France.
Saying that Ambani knew 10 days before that the Rafale deal will be signed, Gandhi further alleged: “PM Modi violated Official Secrets Act: He (PM Modi) is informing someone of a defence matter (Rafale deal). He is under oath. He compromised national security. He does what a spy does. He gave defence information to someone else,” he alleged.
He said: “Anil Ambani knows about the biggest defence deal in the world but the defence minister and foreign secretary don’t. Only the Prime Minister can answer.”
The Indian Express report states that Ambani met then French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office in Paris and had a meeting with his top advisors, in the fourth week of March 2015, about a fortnight before PM Modi announced the Rafale deal. The meeting was attended by Le Drian’s special advisor Jean-Claude Mallet; his industry advisor, Christophe Salomon; and his technical advisor for industrial affairs, Geoffrey Bouquot. Ambani’s meeting was described by Salomon to a top official of a European defence company as “confidential and planned as you can imagine with very short notice”.
Reacting to Rahul’s allegations, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “Rahul Gandhi is working as a lobbyist for competitive aircraft supplier companies. From where did he get the email of Airbus? Airbus itself is under clouds for deals during UPA regime.”
On Monday, The Hindu reported that the deal between India and France involved “major and unprecedented concessions from the Indian government, with critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties and making payments through an escrow account dropped days before the signing of the inter-governmental agreement”.
After this, the Congress, raising the pitch on the deal, said reports that provisions for anti-corruption penalties were dropped days before the signing of the inter-governmental agreement between India and France showed that there was corruption and “somebody has paid somebody”. “Why would the NDA-BJP government waive the anti-corruption clauses in the Rafale deal. The answer is very simple: because there has been corruption in the Rafale deal,” said Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari.
Quoting The Hindu, the Congress chief said, “Every defence deal has an anti-corruption clause. Reports suggest that the PM removed the anti-corruption clause. It is clear that the PM facilitated loot.” Taking to Twitter, he wrote, “NoMo anti-corruption clause. The Chowkidar himself opened the door to allow Anil Ambani to steal 30,000 Cr. from the IAF.”
However, the BJP hit back at the Congress saying the Opposition party was “lying on a daily basis on the Rafale deal, in the hope that some allegations would stick”. “Far from denting the image of the government, these repeated attacks, despite a Supreme Court judgment that vindicated the government’s stand, have reinforced the public perception that a corrupt Congress party is deliberately lying to defame a government known for its clean image and integrity,” said BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao.