France probe into Rafale deal revives political row in India

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Congress demands Prime Minister Narendra Modi to order an investigation, reports Asian Lite News

The controversy over the Rafale jet deal has resurfaced with the Congress party seeking a joint parliamentary committee investigation after a French news website reported that a French judge has been appointed to lead a “highly sensitive” judicial probe into alleged “corruption and favouritism” in the Rs 59,000-crore deal with India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi should order the investigation, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Delhi on Saturday. “Corruption in the Rafale deal has come out clearly now. The stand of the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi has been vindicated today after the French government ordered a probe,” Surjewala said.

France’s National Financial Prosecutors’ Office on Friday said it will look into alleged corruption in the sale of Rafale jets to India. This French judicial institution was created in December 2013 to track down serious economic and financial crimes.

“When the French government has accepted that there is corruption in the deal, should a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) probe be not held in the country where the corruption took place?” Mr Surjewala said.

The Congress had used alleged corruption in the Rafale deal to attack the government during the intense campaign for the general election in 2019. Party leader Rahul Gandhi had targeted PM Modi at his campaigns over the Rafale row.

On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who is a Congress General Secretary, tweeted on the controversy.

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. – Lord Buddha,” Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, while her brother took a swipe at the Prime Minister using the hashtag “#RafaleScam”.

The BJP termed the Congress’s latest round of attacks over the Rafale deal as “lies”. “The way Rahul Gandhi is behaving, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he is being used as a pawn by competing companies. He has been lying right from the beginning on the issue. Probably, he is acting as an agent or some member of Gandhi family has been for a competing company,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra told reporters on Saturday.

Patra cited a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General and a Supreme Court verdict, both of which had found nothing wrong in the defence deal between India and France, to reject allegations of the Congress.

France’s Dassault Aviation had initially won a contract in 2012 to supply 126 jets to India and had been negotiating with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). Later, HAL was replaced by Reliance Group and a new contract for 36 jets was finalised. The announcement to buy the 36 jets was made in an India-France joint statement when PM Modi visited France in April 2015.

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