Seizing on a French media report that commissions were paid between 2007 and 2012 for securing the Rafale deal with India, the BJP on Tuesday said the INC (Indian National Congress) should be renamed as "I Need Commission" and alleged that the Congress' dissatisfaction with the cut on offer was behind the failed negotiations when it was in power.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra launched a scathing attack on the Congress leadership, especially Rahul Gandhi who has been alleging corruption in the purchase of the fighter aircraft by the Modi government, and accused him of spreading "canard, disinformation and lies".
Patra also sought Rahul Gandhi's response to the fresh revelation by French investigative journal Mediapart. He should respond to this from Italy, Patra said, citing reports that the Congress leader is currently not in India.
Corruption has become "homeless" after the BJP came to power, and its address is 10 Janpath, he alleged, referring to the residence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The Congress hit back at the BJP, saying that the government has launched "operation cover up" and demanded to know as to why it had not probed the entire episode so far.
Noting that his party has been seeking a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera asked as to why the government has not agreed to this. Political battle over the matter has heated up after Mediapart made fresh claims that bogus invoices were used that enabled French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help it secure the Rafale deal with India.
According to Mediapart's investigation, Dassault Aviation paid the kickbacks to the intermediary in Mauritius between 2007 and 2012. The Congress-led UPA was in power between 2004 and 2014, leading the ruling BJP for the first time to launch an aggressive counter-attack on the main opposition party after confining itself mostly to dismiss its allegations of corruption in the deal.
The Modi government had inked the deal on September 23, 2016, to procure 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation after a nearly seven-year exercise to procure 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) for the Indian Air Force did not fructify during the UPA regime. Hitting out at the Congress, Patra alleged that it was clearly the dissatisfaction of the Congress and the Gandhi family that was the main reason behind the negotiations falling through during the UPA government.
The Mediapart story says that "corruption, influence-peddling and favouratism" marked the deal during the UPA government, he noted and said, "It will not be an exaggeration to say that the INC be renamed as 'I Need Commission'. "Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Robert Vadra. all say that I need commission," Patra said.
The UPA government had a deal within every deal, he added. The Congress has in past said that the allegations of corruption by the BJP against its ruling family and its members were driven by vendetta.
To a question about the Congress' demand as to why the government has not probed the matter, Patra noted that the alleged middleman was earlier arrested by Enforcement Directorate in a corruption case and said probe agencies must be looking into the matter. The BJP spokesperson said the alleged middleman Sushen Mohan Gupta, whose name has cropped up in the Rafale case, was also accused of pocketing commission in the purchase of VVIP choppers.
This is too much of a coincidence, and too much of a coincidence is always a conspiracy, he said. The Supreme Court and the CAG have already gone into the contents of the Rafale deal signed by the Modi government and found nothing wrong in it, Patra said.
He said Rahul Gandhi had made the alleged corruption in the purchase a big election issue during the 2019 polls but it failed to make any impact. The BJP retained power with a bigger majority.