Jagdalpur (Chhattisgarh): A lot of water has flown under the bridge regarding the controversial Rafale defence transaction. And now, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged that industrialist Anil Ambani’s only ‘claim to fame’ for bagging the offset contract was his friendship with the ‘chowkidar’ aka Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Just hours before the campaign for the first phase of polling on November 12 in Chattisgarh was to end, RaGa, while addressing a rally, said that PM Modi, who projects himself as the watchman (‘chowkidar’) of the nation, altered the fighter aircraft deal negotiated by the erstwhile UPA government to aid his industrialist friend.
“(Dassault) Rafale was chosen by the IAF after 8-9 years of meticulous scouting for the best fighter jet the world over. But Modi, after becoming the Prime Minister, took Ambani in his delegation, changed the deal, and fixed the price at Rs 1,600 crore per jet,” Gandhi alleged, adding that the former government had negotiated the price at Rs 526 crore a piece for the 126-aircraft deal.
“He also took away the offset contract from a government company, HAL, and gave it to Ambani who has never manufactured an aircraft,” the Congress chief alleged.
Gandhi also claimed that Modi should explain to the country why he gave Ambani, whom the Congress president claimed owes a debt of Rs 45,000 crore to different banks, a deal of Rs 30,000 crore. “What is Anil Ambani’s qualification. It is only that he is a friend of the chowkidar,” he claimed. Gandhi also brought up the Panama Papers leak.
Under India’s offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities.
Gandhi also said that in Pakistan, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose name figured in the leak, was jailed, but here, PM Modi and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh have maintained silence despite Singh’s son name allegedly being mentioned in the documents.
‘Raman Singh is corrupt’
- At Kondagaon, RaGa mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi about his silence on issues of corruption and alleged that he and Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh were “corrupt”.
- Giving examples of corruption in the state, the Congress leader alleged that no action was taken in the Rs 5,000 crore chit fund scam case “as the chief minister did not want any action in that.”
- “Chhattisgarh is a prosperous state, but the BJP government steals from the people and helps 15-20 of its rich industrialist friends. Your natural resources are distributed among the rich. Chhattisgarh is the poorest state in India,” he said, while addressing a public meeting.
Congress is Maoist sympathiser: Amit Shah
BJP President Amit Shah and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi traded barbs at each other over what they had done for the welfare of the state. Shah released the party’s manifesto and held a roadshow in Rajnandgaon, the home turf of chief minister Raman Singh, while Gandhi addressed three public meetings in Kondagaon, Jagdalpur and Kanker apart from meeting several stakeholder groups including NGOs, civil society members and representatives of the Satnami Samaj, an influential community in the state politics.
While releasing the manifesto, Shah hit out at the Congress, accusing it of being a “Maoist sympathiser” and said that the BJP government under Raman Singh has made the state nearly Maoist-free and developed it into a powerhub of prospering cement, steel and aluminium industries.
‘Everyone knows this national secret’
Gandhi also took to Twitter to take a dig at Modi, saying the price of the Rafale aircraft was a “national secret” as the government was not even willing to reveal it in the Supreme Court. “The PM knows. Anil Ambani knows. Hollande and Macron know. Every journalist now knows. Defence Ministry babus know. All of Dassault knows. All Dassault’s competitors know. But the price of the Rafale is a national secret that cannot be revealed even to the Supreme Court,” Gandhi tweeted sarcastically.
(With inputs from agencies)