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Rahul Gandhi launches Rajasthan poll campaign, attacks Prime Minister Narendra Modi

“When I raised the issue of Rafale deal and corruption in parliament, the prime minister did not spare a minute to answer my questions,” said Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2018 21:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Jaipur
Rahul Gandhi,Rafale deal,Modi government
Congress president Rahul Gandhi came out all guns blazing at prime minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal, alleging the NDA government paid nearly thrice for the French fighter jet than what the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had agreed. (ANI/Twitter)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday launched a no-holds-barred attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, bringing up alleged corruption in the purchase of French Rafale fighter jets, and assuring party workers that the Congress would be in a position to form the government in three crucial states going to polls this year – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

Gandhi was addressing a gathering of party workers at Ramlila grounds in Jaipur, one of the strongholds for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in a state which it rules, after holding a 12-km long roadshow that marked the launch of the party’s election campaign.

Prime Minister Modi bought a single aircraft at thrice the cost that was negotiated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, Gandhi alleged.

The allegation referred to the 2016 agreement India made to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets made by Dassault Aviation in a fly-away condition from France in a government to government deal, scrapping an earlier deal for 126 of the planes that the UPA had approved. Of the 126, state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was to make 108. The NDA has claimed that the earlier deal hadn’t moved forward for years, and also that the prices under the deals aren’t comparable because of customisation and weaponisation. After receiving the revised deal, Dassault signed an offset deal with several Indian companies including Reliance Defence, a unit of the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group.

Ambani has denied allegations of any wrongdoing, at one point even writing to Gandhi saying that the government had no role in his firm securing the contract.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has denied the opposition’s allegations regarding the Rafale deal, saying due processes were completed before it was finalised.

The Congress president also hit out at Modi on the issue of farmers and the treatment of Dalits, tribals and minorities.

“Modi has waived off loans to the tune of Rs 2.30 lakh crore of 15-20 industrialists, but when I led a delegation to the PMO to ask for farm-loan waiver he did not say a word. I don’t understand one thing, when industrialists fail to pay the loan it is called non-performing asset but when farmer don’t pay the loan, they are called defaulters. Why is that,” he asked.

Gandhi, who arrived in Jaipur at noon, was given a rousing reception by local workers. The road show was seen crucial to tackle unease within the state unit, especially since the visit of Prime Minister Modi and the launch of a high profile campaign by chief minister Vasundhra Raje.

Politically analyst Narayan Bareth said that Saturday’s event had appeared to have energised Congress cadre. “Rahul’s visit was a success. His speech was good, especially his attack on Narendra Modi. But Congress should have launched their campaign sooner.”

State BJP president Madan Lal Saini, responding to Gandhi’s allegations, said the Rafale deal was the first such deal in which a head of state had stepped in to clarify. “The French president has said there was no corruption or irregularity in the deal.”

First Published: Aug 11, 2018 18:45 IST