New Delhi, Oct 11 (IANS) Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday called Prime Minister Narendra Modi “corrupt” and asked him to quit in the light of fresh revelations over the Rafale jets deal — that inclusion of a private defence partner from India was an “imperative and obligatory” condition for awarding the contract.
French news portal Mediapart said the name of Reliance Defence was given to Dassault Aviation – manufacturer of the Rafale jets – as “obligatory” offset partner for the deal announced by Modi in April 2015.
Questioning Modi’s “deafening silence” on the issue, despite allegations of corruption directed at him, Gandhi said the Prime Minister must resign.
“The Prime Minister of India is corrupt,” Gandhi said at a special media briefing here.
“Allegations of corruption are being directed at him and the Prime Minister is silent. He should resign if he cannot respond (to the charges),” he said.
Gandhi also read out excerpts from Wednesday’s Mediapart report, which said, quoting Dassault’s Chief Operating Officer Loik Segalen, that the choice of the Indian private entity was a “compensation” for the purchase of the fighter jets.
“What is he being compensated for?,” asked Gandhi.
“Earlier, former French President (Francois Hollande) had revealed that the Indian Prime Minister had told them that Reliance should get a deal. Now Dassault’s second senior-most executive has said the same thing,” said Gandhi, alleging that “Modi put Rs 30,000 crore in his industrialist crony’s pockets.”
“Ex-President of France, no less, has said that India’s PM is corrupt, now the company which got the contract, its senior executive is saying that India’s PM is corrupt,” said Gandhi, pointing to the French website’s earlier report quoting Hollande as saying that India had proposed the Indian private entity as the partner for the deal.
There is a clear-cut case of corruption against the Prime Minister, he said, ridiculing the Modi government for shying away from a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the deal.
On Dassault reiterating that it “has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group”, Gandhi said the jet manufacturer was “sitting on a huge contract and will say what the Indian government wanted it to say”.
Following the Mediapart report, Dassault Aviation in a statement on Wednesday reiterated that it had “freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group.”
Gandhi also questioned the motive behind Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s three-day visit to France, and alleged that there was a ‘huge cover-up going on” and the “media was being pressurised”.
“The Defence Minister is going to France, what can be a more clear message than that,” he said.
The Congress has twice petitioned the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for a special and forensic audit and also moved the Central Vigilance Commission seeking a probe and seizure of relevant documents pertaining to the deal.