Cong chief alleges PM guilty in scam
Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday went full throttle against Prime Minister Narendra Modi over disclosures in the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal hurling his “PM is a thief” jibe for the umpteenth time on him.
A day after Modi cornered the grand old party in the Lok Sabha by clarifying that there had been no misgivings in the fighter jet deals as claimed by the Congress, Rahul sought answers to questions raised by a media report that the PMO conducted parallel negotiations in the Rafale deal.
Before Parliament could begin, in a hurriedly Press conference at AICC headquarters, Rahul said now it’s crystal clear” that the “watchman” is the “thief”.
“It is an open and shut case,” said Rahul. He asked if Modi can probe Robert Vadra and P Chidambaram, why not order a Rafale deal probe.
“Whatever enquiry you want to do, you do it. You implement the law. Robert Vadra, P Chidambaram — you implement the law on everyone. No problem.
But you also give answers on the Rafale matter,” Rahul said responding to a question on the
Enforcement Directorate interrogating Vadra in a money laundering case and the Government’s sanction to prosecute Chidambaram in the INX Media case.
A report in The Hindu on Friday claimed the Defence Ministry raised strong objections to “parallel discussions” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office during the negotiations over the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France.
Rahul alleged that the PMO was directly involved in negotiations with the French on the Rafale deal and Prime Minister was guilty in the scam.
He also dared Modi to a five-minute face-to-face debate on issues such as the controversial jet deal and national security.
“We have been saying for more than a year that the Prime Minister is directly involved in the Rafale scam. Now, today, as reported by a newspaper, it is black and white… That the PM himself was carrying out a parallel negotiation with the French,” said Rahul, adding it is absolutely clear that the PM has stolen Rs 30,000 crore of your money, bypassed a process, and given it to his industrialist friend Anil Ambani. Congress has alleged that Ambani’s Reliance Group got benefits from the Rafale deal by being made an offset partner which however has denied the allegations.
Holding up the documents quoted in the newspaper, he said the Defence Ministry was clearly objecting to the interference. He read out from a 2015 note, purportedly from the Defence Ministry, published in the newspaper.
“Now, it is crystal clear that the Ministry itself has said, and I will read it to you, ‘It is therefore clear that the parallel discussion by the PMO has weakened the negotiation of the MOD and the Indian negotiating team. We may advise PMO that any officers who are not part of the negotiation team may refrain from having parallel parleys with the officer of the French Government’,” Rahul said.
Former Defence Minister and senior Congress A K Antony said it was “shocking” that the PMO was conducting parallel negotiations and alleged it had “special interests to protect”. “In defence negotiations, only the Defence Ministry is involved,” Antony said talking to reporters.
The Congress president also reiterated his demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the Rafale deal and other Opposition leaders backed the Congress’ stance. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged that Modi had consistently undermined the Air Force and the Defence Ministry to benefit his “cronies” in the Rafale deal.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the purported Defence Ministry note indicated that then Defence Minister Parrikar had no knowledge of the progress in negotiations for the deal. DMK president MK Stalin said that Modi’s actions in the deal is akin to contempt of court.
“PM Modi has come under the Supreme Court’s contempt. In its sealed envelope to SC, the Centre never mentioned PMO’s negotiations. Never ever in independent India, a Prime Minister was caught in such serious allegations,” he alleged.
In a cryptic tweet, Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav brought all the concerns of the Opposition parties — from farmer deaths to the Rafale deal. “Let us vow that we will #NeverAgain let people die waiting in line to withdraw money from a bank, fall for the 15 lakh rupee lie, allow farmers to kill themselves, let national security enrich the famous few, let people be killed for their beliefs, let two and half men rule us.”
Saturday, 09 February 2019 | PNS | New Delhi