Rafale cloud thickens, India's multi-billion dollar warplane deal faces fresh scrutiny

The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015

Congress president Rahul Gandhi's recent speeches testify that he is anything but consistent.

"Why is the prime minister silent?" "It establishes that our prime minister took his friend to France to finalise this deal", he told ANI.

After former French president Francois Hollande's bombshell that the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the India partner in the multi-million dollar Rafale jet deal and not given them a choice, Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, said it has chose to make a partnership with the Reliance in accordance with the policy of "Make in India".

In response to the claim, the Friday night statement of French government said: "The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies". Modi Ji you dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers.

The Ministry of Defence on Saturday reiterated its stand by saying that the Government of India had no role in the selection of Indian Offset partner for the Rafale deal.

The Ministry of Defence put out a brief note on Twitter, saying that Hollande's statement is being verified even while neither the Indian nor the French government had any say in the commercial decision.

However, the former French president's comments appear to bolster long-standing allegations from the opposition Congress party that India's prime minister executed a deal that unduly benefited the Ambani family - which includes Anil Ambani's brother Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man.

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Francois Hollande was president when Modi visited France and signed an $8.7 billion deal for Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft in 2016. Escalation of a mere 1100 crores.

"It was the Indian government that proposed this service group (Reliance), and Dassault (the French manufacturer) who negotiated with" them, Hollande said. "I am sure the Euro equivalent would not be a problem to calculate".

He also alleged that there was pressure for extraneous considerations and "bribe" for not finalising the Rafale deal during the UPA rule despite holding negotiations for years.

Former defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said it was Modi who had finalised the Rafale deal with Hollande in 2015.

The Congress has been attacking the PM, finance minister Arun Jaitley and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman over the deal and has approached the CAG to examine why the Modi government purchased the jets at three times the UPA price and caused loss to public exchequer worth Rs 41,000 crore. The whole truth must come out now.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said Modi had a hand in allotting the contract to a private party. "Why was the Indian government batting for one corporate house with no experience in defence manufacture?"

The government's decision meant that the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited lost out on a lucrative joint-venture contract for the new jets, to replace India's ageing fleet of Russian aircraft.

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