Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday kicked back at Congress president Rahul Gandhi for demanding a probe against Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Rafale deal. Responding to Gandhi’s fresh attack at PM Modi, Prasad told the Congress president is “playing into hands of Rafale competitors”.
“Totally condemn the blatant lies of Rahul Gandhi. He doesn’t believe the Indian Air Force. He doesn’t trust the Supreme Court, doesn’t believe the CAG [Comptroller and Auditor General]. Does he want to believe Pakistan? He is inadvertently or deliberately playing into hands of Rafale competitors,” news agency ANI quoted Prasad as saying minutes after Gandhi held a press conference in New Delhi.
Earlier, Gandhi necessitated a probe against Modi in Rafale deal saying the prime minister “performed bypass surgery” on Rafale deal to benefit industrialist Anil Ambani, whose defense firm, Reliance Defence is an off-set partner of the Dassault Aviation. The French company is the manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jet.
“Why can’t there be a criminal investigation against him also,” stated Gandhi referring to the Centre’s decision to probe the leak of official documents from the defense ministry. The government on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that the documents cited by lawyer Prashant Bhushan were stolen from the ministry. The court was hearing petitions seeking review of its 2018 judgment rejecting probe into Rafale deal.
Gandhi said that the same documents say that the Prime Minister’s Office conducted parallel negotiation with France in Rafale deal, weakening the position of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT). He said INT was tasked with negotiating the Rafale contract.
The Congress president alleged that the prime minister “interfered” with the task of the INT to “give Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani.”
“If PM is not guilty, why doesn’t he himself agree for an investigation? Why did he refuse to form a Joint Parliamentary Committee,” Gandhi said at his press conference.
On Wednesday evening, Gandhi posted a tweet saying there is “enough evidence” to lodge case against PM Modi in Rafale deal. “There is now enough evidence to prosecute the PM in the #RafaleScam. The trail of corruption begins and ends with him. That crucial Rafale files incriminating him are now reported “stolen” by the Govt, is destruction of evidence and an obvious cover up,” he wrote on Twitter.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, during his interaction with mediapersons, said, “This is a clear cut case under Section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and different provisions of Indian Penal Code. Time has now come to register an FIR against PM Modi and every other individual so that a time-bound investigation takes place in this entire sage of Rafale corruption reaching the highest echelons of power.”
The Congress has been relentlessly trying to corner the government alleging irregularities in the Rafale deal signed between India and France in 2016. The Congress has alleged that the Rafale deal that was being negotiated during the UPA regime was scrapped by the Modi government to favour industrialist Anil Ambani.
Both the government and Anil Ambani’s firm have denied the allegations of the Congress. The government has maintained that the Rafale deal was signed in the “interest” of the country. The Supreme Court, in December last year, had ruled out “commercial favouritism” in Rafale deal while dismissing the petitions for independent probe into the Rs 59,000 crore contract.