Rahul questions Nirmala's France visit

Rahul questions Nirmala's France visit

Claims Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s France visit is aimed at a “huge cover-up”

Congress President Rahul Gandhi speaks as AICC chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala looks on, during a press conference at AICC HQ, in New Delhi, Thursday, Oct 11, 2018. (PTI Photo)

Ratcheting up the Rafale row, Rahul Gandhi on Thursday made a direct allegation of corruption against Prime Minister Narendra Modi calling him “chowkidar of industrialist Anil Ambani” and saw an attempt of “huge cover-up” in Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s France visit.

BJP has repeatedly dismissed Rahul’s direct attack on the Prime Minister as outpourings of frustration and had dubbed the entire Nehru Gandhi family as corrupt in past. Reliance Defence has also repeated rubbished the allegations of Congress on this count and Ambani had in past written to the Congress President, rejecting the charges.

“A huge cover up is going on. Media is being pressurized. Defence Minister is going to France. It is not known what is the emergency that India’s defence minister has to visit France to meet Dassault Aviation. You can very well understand,” Rahul said.

His remarks came at a hurriedly called media interaction at AICC headquarters hours after Sitharaman left for France on Wednesday night.

The three-day visit of the defence  minister was originally planned in September but deferred at the last moment, sources in Government said

Latching on to the report of a French media outlet that stated that Dassault Aviation was obligated to enter into a deal with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence, Rahul said it shows that “the Prime Minister of India is a corrupt person” and reminded that Modi had come to power on the specific issue of countering corruption.

Rahul on Thursday also refused to attach any significance to the clarification of the aircraft's manufacturer Dassault Aviation in which it said that it has freely chosen to enter into a partnership with Reliance Defence.

“Dassault is sitting on a huge contract. Dassault is going to say what the Indian government wants it to say but the truth is what an internal document of Dassault says it. So the whole idea is put pressure on Dassault. But one by one truth is coming out,” Rahul said.

He also claimed that the issue is not limited to Dassault and such facts will also come out from other contracts of the defence.

Rahul stopped short of seeking the resignation of the prime minister even as he did not appear averse to the idea.

“Yes they should resign if they are able to respond but the main thing is that that corruption is happening and he has come to power to check corruption. In the Rafale deal, the Prime Minister is involved in corruption and this should be probed. The Prime Minister had said he will become Chowkidar of the nation. He has become Chowkidar of Anil Ambani,” he said.

While Rahul repeatedly latched on to the statement made by one of the top executives of Dassault to label the Prime Minister as “corrupt”, Dassault Aviation in the statement downplayed the controversy and said the comments made by one of its top executives were to explain to the trade union why the Falcon manufacturing unit needed to be taken out of France.

The explanation by Dassault came hours after 'Mediapart' claimed had accessed an internal document of Dassault Aviation showing that the joint venture with Reliance Defence was an “obligatory trade-off” and “mandatory” for the Rs 59,000 crore deal.

Countering the charges of Mediapart, Dassault in a statement observed that its Chief Operating Officer Loik Segalen informed the Central Works Council on May 11 on the creation of the Dassault-Reliance (DRAL) joint venture in order to fulfil some of the offset co offset commitments. Such a disclosure is essential as per the French law.

"In order to deliver some of these offsets, Dassault Aviation has decided to create a joint venture. Dassault Aviation has freely chosen to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This joint-venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd (DRAL), was created February 10, 2017," the company stated.