Armed with fresh ammunitions following a report in The Hindu on the contentious Rafale fighter jets deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi minced no words to call Prime Minister Narendra Modi a "thief" and accused him of interference during the negotiation process with France as claimed by the newspaper citing various documents.
"Now, it is clear that the prime minister has stolen Rs 30,000 crore of your money and given it to his friend Anil Ambani. It is an open and shut case. The defence ministry has said this itself that the prime minister has interfered. Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Modi have lied to you. It is proven that chowkidaar chor hai," Rahul said in a press conference in New Delhi. The Congress president also included the "youths and the soldiers of the country" in his brief statement adding "This is about your future. You defend us, protect us, fight for us, even die for us."
The Hindu in an exclusive report claimed that the defence ministry reportedly raised "strong objections" to "parallel negotiations" undertaken by the Prime Minister's Office with the French in the controversial Rafale deal. The Hindu claimed that the French apparently took advantage of parallel parleys by the PMO which in turn weakened India's position.
A defence ministry note dated 24 November, 2015, accessed by The Hindu, brought this to the attention of the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar. "We may advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays (parleys) with the officers of French Government," the note reportedly said, adding "in case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at appropriate level may be adopted in the case."
The Congress president referred to Modi's Lok Sabha speech on Thursday and said, "Modi made thundering claims. He called us (Opposition) chor, let's see what he has to say now. Bahut lamba bhaashan diya pradhan mantri ji ne kal, ab ispe bhi bolein (The prime minister gave a long speech yesterday, let's hear him speak on this.)
"The Centre gave false information even to the Supreme Court. The top court's judgement on Rafale should be re-considered," Rahul said, reiterating the party's demand for an independent Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC). "We have been saying this for a year, Narendra Modi is directly involved in the scam. Now, it is all in front of you in black and white," he said.
The Supreme Court in December, 2018 said it cannot embark on a judicial review into the deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets on the basis of petitions, which seem to have been spurred by a media interview of former French president Francois Hollande and press coverage alleging "favouritism" by the Modi government.
The Hindu report quotes official documents where the defence ministry protested that the position taken by the PMO was "contradictory to the stand taken by the Ministry of Defence and the negotiating team."
"The then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar made this official notation in his own hand: 'RM may pl. see. It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.'"
Rahul quoted the above section and said that the note can't be stronger. It should be noted that this is not the first instance where the Indian side took contrary positions on the deal.
In a December, 2018 report, The Caravan reported how National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the Union Cabinet undermined Indian interests in the deal.
Doval, reportedly, negotiated with the French side in Paris in January 2016. Doval's advice to Parrikar on doing away with a sovereign guarantee or bank guarantee for the Rafale deal was also recorded in a file noting.
Updated Date: Feb 08, 2019 12:23:21 IST