Herald: Political slugfest touches new low over Rafale issue

Political slugfest touches new low over Rafale issue

25 Sep 2018 05:40am IST
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25 Sep 2018 05:40am IST
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BJP accuses Rahul Gandhi of being involved in a ‘conspiracy, internationally’ to sabotage the fighter aircraft deal and benefit his brother-in-law Robert Vadra, while the Congress chief, in a veiled attack, called Prime Minister Narendra Modi ‘India's commander-in-thief’

PTI, NEW DELHI: The political slugfest over the Rafale issue touched a new low on Monday with the BJP accusing Rahul Gandhi of being involved in a "conspiracy, internationally" to sabotage the fighter aircraft deal and benefit his brother-in-law Robert Vadra, while the Congress chief, in a veiled attack, called Prime Minister Narendra Modi "India's commander-in-thief".

BJP alleged that Gandhi is involved in a "conspiracy internationally" and former French president Francois Hollande is part of the "nexus" to sabotage the procurement, and claimed that the Congress chief wants it scrapped to help a firm linked to Vadra.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat also hinted at Pakistan's role in the conspiracy, saying one of its leaders, former interior minister Rehman Malik, has even tweeted that Gandhi will be the next Indian prime minister.

As allegations flew thick and fast, the Congress released a video showing Dassault CEO Eric Trappier telling a gathering at an event about "responsibility sharing" with HAL on the Rafale contract, indicating that it was almost finalised. The Congress claimed that the video was of March 2015, barely days ahead of the announcement of the deal.

However, the veracity of the video could not be ascertained.

"What happened in a space of 17 days as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced purchase of 36 Rafale jets on April 10, 2015, in Paris, abandoning Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) from the mega deal," Congress Spokesman Abhishek Singhvi asked.

The party also released another video of then Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar speaking at a press conference on April 8, 2015, that HAL was very much on board.

However, the BJP forcefully rejected Congress' charges of wrongdoing and benefiting Reliance Defence Ltd in the deal.

Shekhawat said there is a conspiracy to get the deal scrapped, defame the country and lower the morale of the Indian Air Force.

Referring to Hollande's reported comments that the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as a partner for Dassault Aviation for the Rafale deal, he said, "How Rahul Gandhi and he are linked as a part of nexus, and are trying to sabotage the deal needs to be understood."

Shekhawat alleged that Gandhi is involved in "conspiracy, internationally".

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