New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday levelled corruption charges against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying that there was clear cut corruption in the Rafale deal and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to France was a “huge cover-up" exercise undertaken by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
Gandhi demanded that the allegations against the Prime Minister be investigated.
However, BJP members said that the opposition was trying to create an atmosphere of falsehood in the country.
A senior executive of Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale, has clearly stated that choosing Anil Ambani’s company was compensation for the purchase of Rafale, Gandhi said.
“Earlier, the former President of France had said that the Indian PM had asked him to give the contract. There is a clear-cut case of corruption against the PM of India," Gandhi said at a press conference on the alleged scam.
The press conference came in the wake of a report in the French media on Wednesday that Dassault Aviation had to choose Ambani’s firm, Reliance Defence, as its offset partner in India as a trade-off for getting the deal.
Gandhi’s allegation also comes a day after the Supreme Court sought details from the centre of the steps involved in the decision-making process leading to the Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.
“There is one thing very clear and the people will also understand that the PM of India is corrupt. There will be more information that will come forward from other contracts. The reality is that this is not about Rafale alone but of the defence industry and slowly more questions will be raised. In Rafale, there is clear cut corruption by the PM and that should be investigated," he said.
Sambit Patra, the national spokesperson of the BJP countered the allegations at a press conference in New Delhi on Thursday by saying that corruption charges are being raised by those who have themselves been accused of corruption.
“An atmosphere of falsehood is being created in the country and Rahul Gandhi is trying to fulfil his political ambitions through these lies. Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa has said that Rafale deal is game changer but Rahul Gandhi is saying (something that is) completely opposite to this. The people of the country should now decide who they want to believe. People should decide if they want to believe Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa or Rahul Gandhi. People whose family members are facing corruption allegations are now pointing fingers at the government," Patra said.
The government has said that the joint venture between the two groups was the result of a commercial decision between the businesses and the Indian and French governments had no role in that. The Congress has been questioning the price and the choice of the offset partner.
Gandhi also questioned the reasons for the emergency visit of the defence minister to France. Sitharaman is visiting France for talks to deepen strategic cooperation and also to deliberate on major regional and global issues of mutual interests.
“Why has suddenly the defence minister rushed to France? What is the emergency?" he asked.
The purchase of 36 Rafale jets, which was announced by Modi during his visit to France in 2015, has been a flashpoint between the government and the opposition led by the Congress. Opposition parties have demanded that a joint parliamentary committee be set up on the issue.
PTI contributed to this story.
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