Dassault rejects coercion charge, claims ‘freely chose partner’; Congress, BJP lock horns
Fresh firework has erupted in the Rafale deal after a French investigative website Mediapart quoted an internal Dassault Aviation document revealing that the fighter jet manufacturer had no option but to enter into a joint venture with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as it was presented as “mandatory” and a “trade-off” if the French company had to bag the 36 Rafale jets deal. However, Dassault, in a Press release on Thursday, claimed it “has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group” and added that the decision was taken under no duress. Latching on the revelation, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday called for an investigation, declaring that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “is corrupt.” Also, he demanded Modi’s resignation and sought a probe into the role of Modi in the deal. The BJP rubbished the charges and termed Rahul a “Clown Prince” who has acquired mastery in leveling false allegations. The fresh revelation in the Rafale came days after former French President Francois Hollande indicated that the Indian Government nudged France to have an offset deal with Reliance. Mediapart, which first reported Hollande’s remarks, said the Dassault management had told its trade unions it was “imperative and mandatory” for the company to choose Reliance as an offsets partner. Incidentally, the report came out on a day when Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman left for Paris to hold bilateral talks with her French counterpart Florence Parly. Quoting an internal document of the aviation giant, the news report said Deputy Chief Executive officer of Dassault, during a presentation to workers representatives, said the joint venture with Reliance for setting up a plant at Nagpur was “counterparties.” The report said, “At Dassault Aviation, according to a document obtained by Mediapart, the alliance with Ambani was indeed presented as a ‘counterpart’ to the Rafale sales contract. “Dassault Aviation’s deputy chief executive officer Loik Segalen made this clear on May 11, 2017 during a presentation of the Nagpur Dassault Reliance Aerospace joint venture to the staff representatives: ‘It was imperative and mandatory for Dassault Aviation to accept this counterpart, in order to get the export contract from India,’ said the no.2 (of) the group, according to elected staff,” the report added.