‘Gayab ho gaya’: Rahul Gandhi takes a dig at Modi govt on Rafale papers
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday challenged Prime Minister Narenda Modi to face an investigation over alleged wrongdoing in the Rafale fighter jets deal, and said the new motto of the government should be “gayab ho gaya” (gone missing), a day after the Centre told the Supreme Court that some documents related to the deal were stolen from the defence ministry.
Gandhi’s comment s drew a swift counter-attack from Union ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad and Arun Jaitley, who said neither the Supreme Court nor the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had found anything amiss in the deal, adding that no “dynast” could claim to be above such institutions.
“Why can’t a probe be ordered against the Prime Minister for the Rs 30,000-crore scam when an investigation has been initiated into the theft of official documents related to the Rafale deal?” Gandhi asked at a press conference. “Why isn’t the Prime Minister allowing an investigation against himself if he is not guilty?” Gandhi said
“Why did he refuse a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe? If there is nothing wrong in the deal, then let there be a probe. Modi should say he is not afraid of any probe and allow investigation into the deal,” he added.
The allusion to Rs 30,000 crore is the estimated value of the offset deals offered to Indian suppliers by Rafale-maker Dassault Aviation of France. One of the suppliers is Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, with which Dassault has forged a joint venture.
On Wednesday, attorney general KK Venugopal said some documents that had been stolen from the defence ministry by “present or former employees” had been affixed to a petition seeking a review of the Supreme Court’s December verdict rejecting a court-monitored probe into the Rafale deal.
He urged the court to reject the petition because its case rested on stolen papers and “should not be relied on,” saying the government may invoke the Official Secrets Act that makes possession of secret official documents an offence. One document is an eight-page dissent note written by three domain experts in the Indian team that has already been published by The Hindu newspaper.
At Thursday’s press conference, Gandhi accused the Prime Minister of performing a “bypass surgery” on the Rafale deal and holding “parallel negotiations” with the French interlocutors, citing a defence ministry document to that effect. He said the delivery of the Rafale aircraft had been delayed as a result.
Gandhi also attacked the Prime Minister for calling the Congress a “poster boy” of Pakistan for questioning the February 26 air strike on a terror camp in Balakot. “It is Modi who is Pakistan’s poster boy, not us,” he said.
Responding to Gandhi’s press conference, Jaitley said: “Words were very few, facts were completely wrong and the motivation was also collateral.” He also defended the government’s stand in the Supreme Court over publication of critical media reports that were based on Rafale documents “stolen” from the defence ministry and that they violated the Official Secrets Act.
His Cabinet colleague, Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, said Gandhi neither believed the Indian Air Force nor the Supreme Court. “Will Rahul Gandhi need a certificate about Rafale from Pakistan? In that we cannot help. Of late he believes Pakistan more than Indian forces and its leaders,” Prasad said..