Firing a fresh salvo at the prime minister over the Rafale jet deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Monday charged that the country's "chowkidar" Narendra Modi snatched money away from the poor and handed it over to industrialist Anil Ambani.
Gandhi also asked the prime minister for answers on several issues relating to the Rafale jet fighter deal and also to clarify as to why the former French president Francois Hollande allegedly called him a "thief".
"The chowkidar of the country has taken out Rs 20,000 crore from the pockets of the poor, martyrs and the jawans and put it in the pocket of (Anil)Ambani," Gandhi said at a meeting in the Jais area of his Lok Sabha constituency.
The Congress chief arrived here on a two-day visit, the first after his Kailash Mansarover pilgrimage, and said the people of the country want to know the amount involved in the Rafale deal.
"Why was the price not disclosed...how was the contract given to(Anil) Ambani... serious charges have been levelled by former French president Francois Hollande," he said.
Recalling that during a debate in Parliament on the Rafale deal, "The prime minister could not look me in the eye. PM gives speeches but no answers... he does not have the courage to give reply."
"Under the BJP government, the farmers and poor are crying...the present government is providing all benefits to a selected five to ten people," he said, alleging people like Anil Ambani, Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi are getting all benefits.
The Reliance Group, in a statement quoting Anil Ambani's letter to Gandhi last month, had said, "Allegations of Reliance benefitting by thousands of crores is a figment of imagination, promoted by vested interests."
French company Dassault, which is supplying the fighter jets, has entered into a joint venture with Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence to meet its offset obligations to create business for Indian firms, following the Rafale deal.
Escalating his tirade against the Modi government on the Rafale issue, Rahul said the contract worth thousands of crores of rupees could have provided jobs "to youth of Amethi, to engineers...it could have given employment to thousands of youth...aircract with French technology would have been made in India...the nation would have benefitted from it."
"The deal worth thousands of crores, which could have benefitted the youth and the country, was given to an industrialist," he said.
"Soon after becoming the prime minister, 'chowkidarji' goes straight to France and enters into a deal with the president of that country...," Gandhi said and alleged, "Modiji says leave HAL...the contract has to be given to Anil Ambani."
"The HAL which has been in the business for 70 years, makes aircraft...while Anil Ambani had not made an aircraft in his life and also has an outstanding bank loan of Rs 45,000 crore.
"The company, which got the contract, was floated just ten days before...don't know how Ambani came to know ten days before that he was going to get the contract," he said.
Gandhi further said, "The defence minister of the country says that price of the aircraft will be disclosed but three months later says that under a secret pact with France it cannot be done but that has been denied by their president, I personally asked him."
He also alleged that the Modi government has gone back on election promises like providing employment and sending money in bank accounts of the people.
He also asked mediapersons to show his byte on TV, saying he was aware of pressure on them and asked them not to be afraid of anyone.
"We sought a JPC probe and tweeted to Arun Jaitley also, but Jaitley's boss Narendra Modi will not do this...I asked four questions but not even one has been replied to. You talk of big issues, give speeches, go to Rajasthan and Chattishgarh but there is not a single word about Rafale from Modi...why, because 'chowkidar' has made Anil Ambani commit a theft," he said.
The Congress MP later laid the foundation stone of various works to be undertaken under MPLAD scheme and also met volunteers of Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Vikas Pariyojna being run by Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust in Nigoha area.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said that following "clarifications" from former French president Francois Hollande, there is no room for any doubt in the matter.
He also accused the Congress of trying to gain political mileage over the issue with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections next year.
"The opposition does not have any issue left so it is raking up Rafale deal issue," the home minister told reporters after a meeting of the Central Zonal Council in Lucknow.
"After clarifications from Hollande there is no room for any doubt about the deal. The Congress is making it an issue to gain political mileage in 2019 Lok Sabha polls," Singh said.
Hollande, who was French president when the Rs 58,000 crore deal was announced, was quoted as saying by French publication 'Mediapart' 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.
AFP reported that Hollande told it on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday that France "did not choose Reliance in any way".
When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and "only Dassault can comment on this".
The Centre on Saturday had asserted that it did not have any role in the selection of Reliance Defence as a partner for Dassault while France said it was in "no manner" involved in the choice of any Indian industrial associate for the contract.
The Reliance Group, in a statement quoting Ambani's letter to Congress president Rahul Gandhi last month, had said, "Allegations of Reliance benefitting by thousands of crores is a figment of imagination, promoted by vested interests."
"Simply put, no contract exists with the Government of India."
French company Dassault, which is supplying the fighter jets, has entered into a joint venture with the Reliance Group to meet its offset obligations to create business for Indian firms, following the Rafale deal.