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PM Modi acted like a spy, says Rahul Gandhi in new Rafale attack, triggers sharp rebuttal

Rahul Gandhi alleged that PM Modi shared defence secrets with Anil Ambani and compromised the national security.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2019 16:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The Congress president said it is now black and white that the prime minister shared defence secrets with a private person in order to benefit him.
The Congress president said it is now black and white that the prime minister shared defence secrets with a private person in order to benefit him.(ANI)
         

Congress president Rahul Gandhi launched yet another scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rafale deal case on Tuesday alleging that the irregularities happened on three fronts of “compromising national security, procedural lapses and corruption” in the multi-billion defence contract with France. Gandhi demanded probe in the Rafale deal challenging PM Modi to “an investigation if you have not done anything wrong.”

“His chief negotiator was sitting in the French denfence minister’s office and telling them that draft of the contract was being prepared,” said Gandhi citing an email to up his ante against PM Modi. Earlier, a media report claimed that industrialist Anil Ambani held a meeting with French defence ministry officials a fortnight ahead of the announcement of new Rafale deal during PM Modi’s visit to France in 2015.

Stepping up the attack on the prime minister, Gandhi said, “This is now treason. Mr Narendra Modi is doing what spies do. He is informing somebody of a defence matter. He is under oath to protect these secrets.”

Live updates: ‘Where did Rahul Gandhi get Airbus’ internal email’, asks Ravi Shankar Prasad

He alleged that it is now in “black and white” that the prime minister shared defence secrets with a “private person” in order to benefit him.

Responding to the charge by Gandhi, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress president of “working as a lobbyist” for a competitive defence supplier. “Rahul Gandhi is working as a lobbyist for competitive aircraft supplier companies,” news agency ANI quoted Prasad as saying,

The Union minister further said, “Rahul Gandhi has quoted an email from airbus. It is about the helicopter not Rafale… From where did he get the email of Airbus? Airbus itself is under clouds for deals during UPA regime.”

Gandhi said, “Prime Minister compromised national security. He has given defence secrets to a private person. The second irregularity was procedural lapses, where he bypassed the defence ministry. And, the third issue is of corruption.”

Read: CAG Rajiv Mehrishi can’t audit Rafale, he was part of deal: Congress points to conflict of interest

“Narendra Modi ji is acting as the middleman of Anil Ambani,” said Gandhi showing a copy of the email. “This email is clear. An Airbus executive wrote that Mr Anil Ambani met the French Defence Minister and told him 10 days before the Rafale deal was signed that he was going to get it,” Gandhi said.

“Now the prime minister needs to answer how did Anil Ambani know 10 days in advance of the Rafale deal? Defence Minister, HAL, Foreign Secretary didn’t know but Anil Ambani knew about it. If this is true then the prime minister is in violation of the Official Secrets Act. A criminal action must be initiated on this basis,” the Congress president said.

Read:Integrity clause often given a miss, say defence ministry officials on Rafale row

“Action will be taken and no one will be spared (if the Congress is voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections),” Gandhi said at a press conference in New Delhi.

Prasad dismissed the allegations levelled by Gandhi as “irresponsible” statements. “What Rahul Gandhi said in a press conference is irresponsible. He called the prime minister a traitor, but we don’t expect anything else from a jhoot ki machine,” ANI quoted Prasad as saying.

Gandhi also dismissed the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on the Rafale deal which is expected to be tabled in Parliament soon. He said, “The CAG report is a worthless report. I would term it as a ‘Chowkidar Auditor General Report’. It is Narendra Modi’s report, written for the Chowkidar, on behalf of the Chowkidar, for the Chowkidar by the Chowkidar.”

The Congress had earlier questioned the CAG report on Rafale deal citing “conflict of interest”. The party said Rajiv Mehrishi, the current CAG of India, was part of the decision making process for the Rafale deal. Mehrishi was the finance secretary when the Rafale deal was signed.

The BJP retorted to the charge accusing the Congress of attacking the institution of the CAG. At his media briefing, Gandhi defended his party’s stand saying, “We are not questioning the institution. But the gentleman who is preparing CAG report was part of this decision making process.”

Gandhi also said the Supreme Court ruling on Rafale deal process in December last year has come under “question” in the light of new evidence. He alleged that the government “did not give all the information” to the apex court. “The Supreme Court judgment is open to question now,” he said.

Hearing a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs) seeking probe into the Rafale deal, the Supreme Court had sought the details pertaining to the decision making process and examined the documents submitted to it by the government. In its ruling the Supreme Court said the due process was followed and ruled out any commercial favouritism.

However, the opposition parties mounted attack on the government over a reference to the CAG report on Rafale deal in the Supreme Court judgment. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge contended that the CAG report was not yet ready and not tabled in Parliament. The government subsequently moved for a correction in the apex court ruling blaming the “factual error” on “misinterpretation” in the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence has said the email referred to by Gandhi in his latest charge against the Modi government over Rafale deal has “no connection” with the inter-governmental agreement between India and France for the purchase of 36 fighter jets from the French company Dassault Aviation.

Reliance Defence Spokesperson said, “The purported email being referred to by the Congress party is regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence, pertinent to Civil and Defence Helicopter Programs under the ‘Make in India’ program. Discussions on the proposed MoU were clearly held with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance. It had NO connection whatsoever with the Government-to-Government Agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft.”

“Also, for the record, the MoU for Rafale aircraft was signed between France and India on 25 January 2016, and not in April 2015,” the spokesperson said adding, “From the above, it is evident that the facts are being deliberately twisted and reality being ignored.”

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 12:16 IST

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