Launching a fresh offensive, the Congress demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday over charges of a “middleman” in the Rafale fighter jet deal and sought an independent probe into the matter.
Congress general secretary and chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged corruption and a loss of Rs 21,075 crore to the state exchequer in the Rafale deal, after a French media outlet reported about the role of a “middleman”.
“How can a private individual and middleman be so powerful as to influence the decisions of the Modi government in India’s biggest defence deal? Does it not require a thorough independent investigation?” he asked at a press conference.
“The government can no longer hide and it must answer to the people of India,” Mr Surjewala said.
The government has denied any wrongdoing and the presence of middlemen in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from French firm Dassault Aviation, noting that it was a government-to-government deal.
Union minister and senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad recently told a press conference that the allegations of corruption were “completely baseless” and suggested that a report in the French media about alleged financial irregularities in the deal may be due to “corporate rivalry” in that country.
Dassault Aviation rejected the fresh allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal on Thursday, saying no violations were reported in the frame of the contract, days after French online journal “Mediapart” alleged that the jet manufacturer had paid nearly one million Euros to an Indian middleman.
Mr Surjewala also asked why the government removed the mandatory “anti-corruption clauses” in the Rafale deal and whether the prime minister knew of it.
“Isn’t it correct that the French government or Dassault deleted the anti-corruption clauses? Were the anti-corruption clauses deleted to escape responsibility from the bribery and commissions to be paid in the Rafale deal?” he asked.
The Congress leader questioned why the deletion of the “anti-corruption clauses” was approved by the prime minister and the government in September 2016, despite the defence ministry’s insistence upon including those in the inter-governmental agreement in July 2015.
He alleged that “fresh revelations in the Rafale scam have now cemented corruption, treason, loss to public exchequer of at least 2.81 billion euros (Rs 21,075 crore) and criminal breach of national security by the Modi government”.
“The prime minister and the government must answer to the nation,” Mr Surjewala said, referring to the revelations made by “Mediapart” that arms dealer Sushen Gupta, chargesheeted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal, supplied classified documents to Dassault Aviation on the Indian negotiating team when talks were gridlocked over benchmark pricing in the 7.87-billion-euro Rafale deal.