New Delhi: The BJP on Tuesday vehemently dismissed Rahul Gandhi’s allegations against Narendra Modi on the Rafale fighter jet deal as height of shamelessness and irresponsibility, and asserted that the e-mail cited by the Congress chief to target PM Modi referred to some chopper deal and not the purchase of the fighter aircraft.
Senior party leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad also put Airbus, whose internal e-mail was cited by the Congress president, in a dock, saying the European aircraft manufacturer is under a needle of suspicion in deals finalised during the previous Congress-led government.
BJP’s reaction came after Rahul accused PM Modi of “treason” and violating the Official Secrets Act by acting as Anil Ambani’s “middleman” in the Rafale jet contract, citing an email to claim the businessman was aware of the deal days before India and France signed it.
Gandhi released to the media an email dated March 28, 2015 purportedly written by Airbus executive Nicolas Chamussy to three recipients with the subject line “Ambani”.
He claimed the email showed Ambani visited then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office and mentioned an “MoU in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit (to France)”.
“This is now treason, nothing less. Mr Narendra Modi is doing what spies do. He is informing somebody of defence matters, he is under oath to protect these secrets.
“He has now given this secret to Mr Anil Ambani who knows that the biggest defence deal in the world is going to him 10 days before the deal…This itself is criminal, this itself will put the prime minister in jail,” the Congress chief said.
The Congress president asked how Ambani knew about the deal and mentioned it in the French defence minister’s office when even then foreign secretary S Jaishankar and then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had no information on it.
Rebutting Gandhi’s allegations, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said his party had serious differences with former prime ministers, who came from the Gandhi family, over several “murky” defence deals signed during their term but had never accused them of treason.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) has thrown muck at his own face by abusing our honest prime minister… We will expose his lies before the public,” he said.
Meanwhile, refuting the charges levelled by Rahul, Reliance Defence said, “Purported email being referred by the Congress Party regarding the discussion between Airbus and Reliance Defence regarding Civil & Defence Helicopter Programs under ‘Make in India.”
“Discussion on proposed MoU was clearly with reference to cooperation between Airbus Helicopter and Reliance. It had no connection whatsoever with Government to Government Agreement between France and India for 36 Rafale aircraft,” it added.
The war of words between the Centre and the Congress comes on a day when the government is expected to present the CAG report on the Rafale fighter jet deal in the Lok Sabha.
The Rafale jets purchase issue continues to rock the Parliament with Congress President Rahul Gandhi directly accusing the Prime Minister of benefiting industrialist Anil Ambani. The ‘Rafale controversy’ has headlined most of the Congress’ campaigns since late 2018.