(Eds: Updating, adding Parrikar’s comments) New Delhi, Jan 30 (PTI) Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi “sold” the Indian Air Force to benefit a businessman in the Rafale contract, and asserted that the truth about the multi-billion dollar deal was coming out from within the government despite attempts to hide it. Also Read - Live Cricket Score Ind vs Aus 4th Test Day 2 Today's Match Live Updates Gabba, Brisbane: Cummins Removes Gill, Pujara Joins Rohit
Gandhi’s fresh round of attack on the Rafale issue comes a day after he met Goa Chief Minister and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar and ahead of the Parliament’s budget session, starting Thursday. Also Read - 4 Flights to/From Delhi Airport Delayed, 1 Cancelled Due to Dense Fog & Zero Visibility
Addressing a Youth Congress event here, Gandhi hit out at the Modi government over the issue of alleged corruption in the fighter jet deal and said voices bringing out the truth were coming out from within the dispensation and no one can silence them. Also Read - Master Box Office UAE: Thalapathy Vijay's Film Beats Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984 With Huge Margins
“I understand that you (Modi) cannot sleep in the night, I know that when you sleep, you see Anil Ambani’s photo, you see the photo of Rafale aircraft, you see the photo of IAF martyrs,” Gandhi said.
“This is happening due to the Congress that has shown you the truth. The entire country knows that you have sold the Indian Air Force,” the Congress chief said in his over half-an-hour speech laced with barbs at Modi on multiple issues such as Rafale, crony capitalism, farm loan waiver, and jobs among others.
Gandhi said he met Parrikar on Wednesday.
“Parrikar ji had himself said that while changing the deal, the prime minister did not ask the defence minister,” he said, without making it clear whether he was referring to Wednesday’s meeting or earlier reported remarks by Parrikar.
The Goa Chief Minister has categorically denied discussing Rafale issue with Gandhi in the meeting on Wednesday.
“Nothing whatsoever about Rafale was even mentioned in your meeting with me,” Parrikar asserted while attacking Gandhi for using his courtesy visit to him for “petty political gains”.
Gandhi alleged that Modi snatched away employment from the youth of Karnataka and Odisha because he wanted to ensure that his “friend” Anil Ambani makes a profit of Rs 30,000 crore.
The government as well as Ambani have strongly denied any wrongdoing in the fighter jet agreement with France.
Gandhi alleged that the “56-inch PM” spoke in Parliament for long, but when asked questions on the Rafale deal, could not look him in the eye and kept looking elsewhere.
He also alleged that former CBI chief Alok Verma was removed to stop the truth in the Rafale deal from coming out.
Talking about Verma’s ouster, he said: “Just after 1-2 hours of the Supreme Court verdict, I got a call from Kharge ji who said ‘Rahul ji the CBI committee has been called within an hour and Narendra Modi ji wants that discussions take place so that the CBI chief is removed’.” The truth is coming out slowly and one by one evidence is coming to the fore, Gandhi claimed, alleging that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said the agreement was secret, but Dassault and Anil Ambani’s firm had given the price in their annual reports.
“Long negotiations were carried out on the deal, but Narendra Modi junked all negotiations to help Anil Ambani. Now, Narendra Modi is trying to hide the truth,” the Congress chief alleged.
“Parrikar ji says in a Cabinet meeting that I have Rafale deal file, no one can remove me from Goa. His minister talks to a journalist on phone, the whole of India has heard the tape. Another truth is coming out from the CBI. So, Narendra Modi ji asks Amit Shah to silence him, remove him at 1:30 in the night,” Gandhi said, referring to Verma’s removal.
The Congress president also made a sharp attack on the government over the farm loan waiver issue and accused the prime minister of having waived Rs 3.5 lakh crore loans of 15 of his “friends”.
“I asked the CMs of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan to waive farmers’ loans within 10 days. Congress governments did it in 2 days,” Gandhi said.
“Why didn’t you call Anil Ambani to your office and asked him to return the Rs 45,000 crore loan. We are asking for justice,” he said at yatra’s concluding session ‘Inquilab’.
Alluding to media reports stating that loan waivers to farmers will “spoil their habit”, Gandhi asked whether Anil Ambani, fugitive tycoon Vijay Mallya and diamantaire Nirav Modi’s habits have been spoiled or not.
“If you are spoiling their habits, we will spoil the farmers’ habits,” Gandhi said.
Attacking Modi over the Swachh Bharat mission, Gandhi said the PM asks farmers, youth and poor people to pick up brooms, but does not ask people like Ambani to do so.
He also said the Congress will not be on the back foot and will instead play on the front foot in the Lok Sabha polls. “Modi has to face the public,” he said.
“The prime minister has worked on dividing the country, burnt the Northeast, Kashmir, made people fight in Haryana, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala,” Gandhi said.
“2014 taught us a lesson that we should not be arrogant and have humility… We did that and the atmosphere is changed,” he said, adding that 2-3 BJP MPs in Lok Sabha met him and expressed their desire that they want to switch to the Congress camp.
The Congress has taken a historic step and decided on giving people right to minimum income. “All poor people will get benefit directly into their accounts and there will be no middlemen,” he said.
Gandhi said the country needs a new vision and Congress will provide it. He mocked Modi for his plans for generating employment, saying instead of creating jobs, the PM talked about “pakodas” and generating gas from gutters.
This is published unedited from the PTI feed.