The Congress on Tuesday paved the way for a fresh controversy, after an article published in its mouthpiece the National Herald compared the infamous Bofors scandal of the 1980s to the alleged scam in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France. The Bofors scam had tainted the image of the Rajiv Gandhi regime.
The front-page article in the National Herald — titled "Rafale: Modi's Bofors" — included a chronology of events around the deal. It also asked why the Narendra Modi government was refusing to disclose the cost at which the aircraft were procured.
The report also alleged that the prime minister "dumped" Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and inducted Reliance Defence Limited as Dassault's offset partner. "Is this a case of crony capitalism? How was a new, untested company with no experience or proven record allowed to participate in the deal?" the article asked.
The National Herald report also cited the then foreign secretary S Jaishankar's remark from the eve of Modi's visit to France in March 2015. He had said that the talks between Dassault and HAL on the deal would have little bearing on his trip.
The Bofors scam on the alleged payment of kickbacks in the procurement of Howitzer artillery guns had triggered a massive political controversy. It is believed to have led to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989. The Congress, which has been ramping up its attack on the government over the Rafale deal, has always maintained that the Bofors deal was not a scam.
Although the headline of the online version of the article was later changed to "Rafale: The albatross around the Prime Minister's neck?", a clip of the article in print continued to be shared on social media through the day.
— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) July 30, 2018
In a hurry to malign Narendra Modi, the Congress mouthpiece National Herald accepted Rahul Gandhi's father's Bofors scam in print.
LLRC moment on #Rafale
(After getting embarrassed, they changed the headline to albatross or something online.. but too late) pic.twitter.com/1r3aGEFi31
— Kiran Kumar S (@KiranKS) July 30, 2018
BJP leaders did not waste time in lashing out at the Congress and its president Rahul Gandhi over the row, calling it a "self goal".
Pappu @RahulGandhi self Goal. Rafale is scam or not but Pappu party accepted accepted Bofors is a scam & Rajiv Gandhi is Criminal pic.twitter.com/DSmCdxzO2X — Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga (@TajinderBagga) July 30, 2018
— Anurag Thakur (@ianuragthakur) July 31, 2018
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jul 31, 2018 18:25 PM