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'Bribe' Behind UPA Not Finalising Rafale Deal, Alleges BJP After Rahul's 'Thief' Attack

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad labelled the Congress leader as 'ill-informed' and said Reliance and Dassault had entered into agreement as early as 2012 when the UPA was in power.

Updated:September 22, 2018, 7:21 PM IST
'Bribe' Behind UPA Not Finalising Rafale Deal, Alleges BJP After Rahul's 'Thief' Attack
Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad addresses the media in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
New Delhi: The war of words between Rahul Gandhi’s Congress and the Centre over the Rafale deal has intensified ever since former French President Francois Hollande’s startling claim that his country had no choice in the selection of the offset partner for the Rafale deal.

Hollande’s remarks fly in the face of the government’s claim that it had no role to play in the Anil Ambani-led firm being chosen by Dassault Aviation as its offset partner in India.

Gandhi on Saturday alleged that the "former French president is calling the Prime Minister of India a thief" and the PM needs to break his silence. Alleging that the Rafale deal is corrupt, he added, “It is very important for PM now to either accept Mr. Hollande's statement or state that Mr. Hollande is lying and tell what the truth is.”

Countering his charge, Law Minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad labelled the Congress leader as “ill-informed”. In a stinging attack, Prasad alleged that pressure for extraneous considerations and "bribe" were the reasons behind not finalising the Rafale deal during the UPA rule despite holding negotiations for years. He said Reliance and Dassault had entered into agreement as early as 2012 when UPA was in power.

Prasad further condemned as "shameful and irresponsible" Gandhi’s remarks against PM Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, saying no president of any party has ever used such language against a Prime Minister. He also ruled out a joint parliamentary committee probe, saying it cannot be done to satisfy the ego of an "ill-informed leader".

The Congress has been demanding a JPC probe into the Rafale matter for the truth to come out.

Sharpening his attack further, Prasad accused Gandhi of "playing into the hands of Pakistan and China" by seeking the details of the fighter jets.

The Prime Minister had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets for Rs 58,000 crore after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.

Earlier, in a tweet, Gandhi said Modi had betrayed India’s soul with “clear-cut corruption” in the contract. “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a One Hundred & Thirty Thousand Crore, SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defence forces. Modi Ji you dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India's soul,” he wrote.

He arrived at the mammoth figure by adding the value of offset contracts, saying the actual benefit due to the deal is of USD 20 billion, equivalent to Rs 1,30,000 crore.

"The PM personally negotiated & changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani. The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers,” Gandhi had said on Friday.

Hours after Hollande’s remarks, the French government issued a statement denying the claims. It asserted that French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the contract. It added that it was not involved in any manner in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the Rafale deal.

"The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by French companies," it said. Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, also said it decided to make a partnership with the Anil Ambani firm in accordance with the policy of 'Make in India' and the decision was purely its own.

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