New Delhi: Hours after a French media report said aerospace major Dassault had to select Anil Ambani’s company for joint venture as a “mandatory” trade-off to win the 59,000-crore Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi called for an investigation, declaring that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “is corrupt” and the “PM of Anil Ambani”.
A report by Mediapart said a top Dassault official, Loik Segalen, had explained to his staff at a presentation last year that the joint venture with Reliance Defence was “imperative and obligatory for Dassault Aviation, to accept this condition, in order to obtain the export contract for Rafale from India”.
“It is absolutely clear that the prime minister is corrupt. I repeat, the prime minister of India is a corrupt man… and sadly, his entire campaign was on fighting corruption,” Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference in the Congress office.
“He is actually not your prime minister. He is Anil Ambani’s prime minister,” the Congress president charged, not providing any evidence to back his allegations against PM Modi.
The Congress president questioned Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to France, suggesting that it was part of a “huge cover-up”.
“Now you see the defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, suddenly leaving for France… that too to visit Dassault… One wonders what the emergency is,” he questioned.
Mr Gandhi alleged that the defence minister had gone to “put pressure” on Dassault. “And let me make one more thing very clear… Dassault is sitting on a massive contract… It will obviously say whatever the Indian government wants it to say. But look at the internal documentation in Dassault… that makes it clear as to what had happened”,” he claimed.
The BJP, however, accused Mr Gandhi of mocking national security and said he is trying to build his political career by spreading lies on the Rafale fighter jet deal. “He has been lying and mocking national security,” said BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra.
Mediapart’s article reinforced the explosive statement by former French president Francois Hollande last month that France did not have a choice in selecting Anil Ambani’s rookie defence company for the offset clause in which Dassault has to ensure that business worth at least half the deal’s worth — Rs.30,000 crore — is generated in India.
Dassault Aviation clarified in a statement today that it had “freely chosen” its partnership with Anil Ambani’s company.
But Mediapart stood by its report. “These are minutes of a meeting held on May 11, 2017 within the office of Dassault Aviation company which fully confirms the statement of Mr. Hollande on the choice or the imposition of Reliance Group as Dassault’s partner for the Rafale contract,” Antonn Rouget, a journalist with Mediapart, told NDTV in Paris.
Opposition parties allege that Reliance Defence was formed just 12 days before the announcement of the Rafale deal in 2015. Anil Ambani has rejected the charges.