In a stinging attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said former French president Francois Hollande's remarks on Reliance Defence showed 'clear cut' corruption in the Rafale deal and questioned the prime minister's 'silence' on the issue
Asking the prime minister to come clean on the allegations of favouring Reliance Defence as 'it is the question of dignity of his office', Gandhi demanded that there be a probe by a joint parliamentary committee, in which Hollande can be called so that the truth comes out.
"Now, what the ex-President of France is saying is that the Prime Minister of India is a 'thief'. That is what this (Hollande's) statement is saying.
"And it is very important for the Prime Minister of India now to either accept Mr Hollande's statement and say 'Yes, it is the truth -- Mr Narendra Modi gave the Rafale contract in Rs.30,000 crore to Mr Anil Ambani', or 'Mr Hollande is not telling the truth and here is the truth'," Gandhi said at a press conference.
The Congress chief's blistering attack on Modi came a day after Hollande was quoted as saying by French media that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal.
"It is the question of dignity of the office of the PMO, it is a defence related question, it is a question of future of our jawans, the future of our soldiers, the future of our Air Force. And what I am surprised by is that the prime minister is completely silent - not one word has come out of PM's mouth about this comment," Gandhi said.
To a question, Gandhi alleged that it 'is very clear -- there is clear cut corruption in the Rafale deal'.
"It is now up to the Prime Minister of India to clear his name. We are absolutely convinced that the prime minister of India is corrupt. This question is now clearly settled into the minds of the Indian people that the country's watchman is a thief," Gandhi alleged.
Demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe into the Rafale deal, he said, "(Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley has written a very good blog, but when it came to the JPC demand, he went silent. Let there be a JPC, we can call Hollande also in it and everything will be known."
The report in Mediapart, a French language publication, quoted Hollande as saying, "It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us."
The French government Friday said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the Rafale fighter jet deal, asserting that French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the contract.
On the France government's stand, Gandhi said it was very clear the it has given a statement which is stating what the procedure is.
"Here, there was a one-on-one meeting between the Prime Minister of India and the then President of France. In that meeting, the contract was signed and the ex-President of France has now said that in that meeting, I was clearly told that the contract had to go to Mr Anil Ambani," Gandhi alleged.
Under attack over the allegations, the government on Saturday said it had 'no role' in the selection of Reliance Defence as an offset partner of Dassault Aviation.
Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal. The government has been maintaining it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner by Dassault.
In a statement, Dassault Aviation said it decided to partner with Reliance Defence in accordance with the policy of 'Make in India'.
Earlier, Gandhi alleged that Prime Minister Modi and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a Rs 130,000 crore 'surgical strike' on the defence forces.
'The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a One Hundred & Thirty Thousand Crore, SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defence forces. Modi Ji you dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India's soul,' he tweeted.
Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French president Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.
The opposition party has been accusing the government of choosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.