Intensifying his attack on the Centre over the Rafale fighter jet deal, Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged that it was the biggest issue of corruption in the country and asked the prime minister to reply why he took the contract from the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and gave it to a "friend".
Launching the Congress poll campaign in Karnataka's Ballari district, Gandhi took a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for criticising policies of previous Congress governments saying he is running the country "by looking in just rear-view mirror" which as led to "mistakes like GST and demonetisation".
The Congress chief alleged that Modi had "personally" changed the Rafale contract during his visit to France and said the prime minister had not answered the three questions posed by him on the deal.
"Today Rafale aircraft is the biggest issue of corruption in the country. I want to tell few things about this to you," he told a public rally to mark the start of the Congress' Janashirvad Yatra.
Gandhi said, "Modiji had gone to Paris in France.In France Modiji personally changed the contract."
He said earlier the Rafale contract was given to defence public sector undertaking Bengaluru-based Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which has been making aircraft for the Indian Air Force for 70 years.
"If Bangalore is on its feet today, one of the reasons for it is HAL. Modiji took away Rafale contract from Bangalore and HAL and gave it to his friend," he said.
"We have asked three questions to Modi -- Modiji on what basis did you give the contract to your friend after taking it away from HAL, for what reason? Why did you take away the future of its youth from Bangalore? Why did you do this to profit your friend?
"Second question, did the price of the aircraft increase or decrease in your new contract?
"Third question -- when you took this decision in Paris and when India's defence minister was buying fish in Goa -- did you take permission from the Cabinet Committee on Security? Yes or no."
The Congress leader said Modi spoke for one hour in Parliament on the motion of the thanks on President's address but did not utter a word about Rafale.
Gandhi began his four-day tour of northern Karnataka districts of Ballari, Koppal, Raichur, Kalaburagi and Bidar during which he would travel in a bus and address public rallies, hold roadshows and interact with farmers and others, as part of the 'yatra'.
Launching the yatra from the mine-rich Ballari is significant as Sonia Gandhi had made her maiden entry to Parliament from the district in 1999, when she defeated BJP leader Sushma Swaraj in a fiercely fought contest.
Sonia Gandhi later gave up the Ballari seat preferring Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
In his speech, Rahul Gandhi questioned the Modi government's record in governance. He accused it of making "false promises" and not delivering on generating jobs.
"Modiji speaks about corruption. The world record in corruption was broken by his party's government in Karnataka," he alleged referring to the B S Yeddyurappa rule in the state.
The BJP, which is going all out to unseat the Congress in the state, is projecting state veteran 74-year-old Yeddyurappa as its chief ministerial candidate.
Yeddyurappa had quit chief ministership on graft charge and formed his own outfit, but later returned to the BJP.
Taking potshots at the prime minister, Gandhi said he should stop talking about the past and start doing his work.
"...You (Modi) drive the vehicle by looking in the rear view mirror, which will cause accidents. This country cannot be run by looking in the rear view mirror," Gandhi said, as he flayed him for talking only about the past.
"Because of this rear-view mirror driving, he is committing mistakes like GST, demonetisation," the Congress leader said.
Gandhi said in his one-hour long speech in parliament this week, Modi did not speak about the burning issues pertaining to agrarian problem, unemployment, tribals and Dalits. Rather, he chose to speak about the past.
He advised the prime minister "to learn governance" from state chief minister Siddaramaiah "who runs the government looking forward".
"Modiji, this country has not made you prime minister to talk only about the past. This country wants to know your future plans for the country," the Congress leader said.
Gandhi said the prime minister has to work and not give excuses.
"Congress party works and does not give excuses."
He also spoke about his and Sonia Gandhi's long standing relationship with Ballari, saying "I will never forget that you embraced Sonia Gandhi and stood with her. I will not forget this in my life."
Photograph: Kind Courtesy @INCindia/Twitter