Defence Ministry objected to PMO role in Rafale deal, says report; Rahul Gandhi slams PM Modi

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New Delhi, February 8: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday attacked Prime Minister Narendra over the Rafale deal after reports stated that the Defence Ministry has expressed its strong reservations to the “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office with France on the multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal.
The Ministry has reportedly advised the PMO not to entertain officers who are not part of the Indian Negotiating Team from having “parallel parlays”.
“For more than a year, we have been saying that PM is directly involved in Rafale scam. Today it is clear that PM himself had been carrying out a parallel negotiation,” Gandhi said while addressing the media.
The note accessed is a shot in the arm for the Congress which has has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.
The Congress president further said that the party has been demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe in the matter.
“We have been saying that there should be an inquiry through JPC. Now Ministry itself has said, ‘we may advise PMO that any officers who are not part of the Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parlays’”, he said.
Accusing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying in the matter, Gandhi said the former French president Francois Hollande too has admitted that he was made to choose Anil Ambani by PM Modi himself.
The Defence Secretary of India had written in the note that “it is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously”.
Gandhi said it cannot be written stronger than this.
He further said that the government has lied to the Supreme Court as well.
Questioning PM Modi, he asked why the PM cannot state the reason for the “parallel negotiations” when “he can give a lengthy sermon”.
Gandhi further said that the Modi government can conduct an inquiry on any Congress leader and that the party was ready to face it.
PM Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters after talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.
Congress members have been raising the matter since the start of the Winter Session of Parliament on December 11, demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal.
The demand for probe came weeks after the Supreme Court gave a clean chit to the Centre on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.
A three-Judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi had dismissed all the petitions and said no Rafale probe was required.
The observation by the apex court had come after the government refused to publicly divulge pricing details of the deal, saying the Rafale deal pricing details are a matter of “national security” and cannot come under judicial review. (Courtesy: TS)