Congress on Tuesday upped its attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government at the Centre, after an investigative report revealed that Reliance Defence chief Anil Ambani had met French defence officials two weeks before Modi's visit the country, during which the prime minister had signed a deal for India to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets. Slamming the prime minister, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi raked up this email at a press conference, flashing a hard copy of the exchange to the reporters present. "The defence minister says he doesn't know about the new deal, whereas Anil Ambani is sitting in the French defence minister's office, saying the prime minister will sign an MoU with him involved," Rahul said, questioning how Ambani met the French defence minister before the prime minister's visit.
"Narendra Modi is acting as a middleman for Anil Ambani. 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," he said. Furthermore, the Congress chief accused the prime minister of treason for allegedly sharing confidential details with Ambani and compromising national security, in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
"Modi is under oath to protect secrets. He gave these secrets to Anil Ambani, who knew about the biggest defence deal in the world 10 days beforehand. This itself is a crime. This itself will put the prime minister in jail... This is now treason. Narendra Modi is doing what spies do: he is informing somebody of a defence matter. He is under oath to protect these secrets."
"Earlier there was one axis of corruption and a second axis of procedure. This (national security) is the third, and frankly, a serious one, where Modi has compromised national security. This is clear cut," he added.
Excerpts of the email trail, which Congress leader Kapil Sibal tweeted on Tuesday on the heels of the news report, indicate that the French government, European aircraft manufacturer Airbus and Ambani were aware that a Memorandum of Understanding was set to be signed on Rafale during Modi's visit. The Congress has alleged that Ambani had known about the Rafale deal being signed even before the then defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, also pointed out that Ambani had founded Reliance Defence the same week of his visit to France.
Rahul said the prime minister "needs to answer how did Anil Ambani knew 10 days in advance about the Rafale deal" when even the Indian defence minister, HAL and the foreign secretary did not know about it. "If this is true, the the prime minister is in violation of the Official Secrets Act, and criminal action must be initiated on this basis."
On the Comptroller and Auditor General's report on the Rafale deal, tabled in Parliament minutes after the press conference ended, Rahul said: "It is Narendra Modi's report, written for the chowkidar, on behalf of the chowkidar, for the chowkidar, by the chowkidar... The CAG report is a worthless report. I would term it a 'Chowkidar Auditor General report."
The Congress president also brought up the December 2018 Supreme Court judgment dismissing all petitions demanding an investigation into the controversial fighter jet deal with Rafale. Th court had asserted that the pricing and decision-making process of the deal were not in doubt.
At the press conference, Rahul pointed out that Supreme Court had referred to this 'Chowkidar Auditor Report' to come to its verdict, which now made the judgement "open to question".
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Updated Date: Feb 12, 2019 12:54:37 IST