NEW DELHI: Escalating its attack on the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre, the Congress on Tuesday alleged that the ruling party was shying away from answering questions on the controversial Rafale fighter jet deal between Indian and France.
The main opposition party also categorically rejected BJP's claim that Rahul Gandhi wanted the Rafale deal scrapped to help a firm linked to his brother-in-law Robert Vadra.
The principal opposition party alleged that the Modi government was responding to the alleged "Rafale scam" with abuses and mud-slinging.
Addressing a press conference on the issue, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said, '' the UPA government gave the contract to state-run firm Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and but later Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave it to Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence.''
"The tender was issued in 2007 August, and on December 12, 2012, it was opened...And in March 13, 2014, the Congress government gave the offset contract to state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited," Surjewala said.
Surjewala also cited the statements made by Dassault Aviation CEO Eric Trappier and former HAL chairperson TS Raju to substantiate his claims.
Hitting out at Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and the Modi government, Surjewala said they were responding to the Rafale "scam" with abuses and mud-slinging.
"The country has heard the tale of Ali Baba aur Chaalis Chor, now it is asking that when will Modi Baba and Chaalis Chor answer," Surjewala said in a wordplay on the folktale "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves".
"Are you Ambani's PM, or the country's prime minister?" he asked.
Shedding more light on the issue, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said, ''On March 28 2015, Reliance Defence Ltd was incorporated. On March 25, 2015, Eric Trappier stated that contract with HAL was finalised. On March 11, 2015, HAL and Dassault stated parts of Rafale manufactured by HAL & Dassault will be guaranteed by respective companies.''
''On April 8, 2015, Foreign Secretary of India stated that Rafale deal wasn't on the table during PM's visit to France on April 10, 2015. But PM announced about the 36 Rafale aircrafts deal, while none of them was aware,'' Sibal added.
On April 8,2015, Foreign Secretary of India stated Rafale deal wasn't on table during PM's visit to France on April 10, 2015. But PM announced about the 36 Rafale aircrafts deal, while none of them were aware: Kapil Sibal, Congress pic.twitter.com/rc9TIiNWqi
— ANI (@ANI) September 25, 2018
On Monday, the BJP had alleged that the Congress president was involved in a "conspiracy, internationally" and former French president Francois Hollande was part of the "nexus" to sabotage the Rafale deal.
BJP leader and Union Minister Gajendra Shekhawat had dragged the Gandhi family into the intensifying political row over the fighter aircraft deal, alleging that the UPA government had called off the multi-billion dollar deal after a private company linked to Vadra was not chosen as a broker.
The Rafale controversy took a new turn last week after Hollande, who was French president when the Rs 58,000 crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication Mediapart on Friday that France was given "no choice" on selection of the Indian partner for Dassault and the Indian government proposed the name of Reliance as offset partner for the French aerospace giant.
Modi had announced the procurement of 36 Rafale fighters after holding talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.