Rafale-deal: Hollande's bombshell catches BJP in crossfire, opposition strengthens attack

Rafale-deal: Hollande's bombshell catches BJP in crossfire, opposition strengthens attack

"The prime minister is completely silent".

Hurt by Congress President Rahul Gandhi's stinging attack, the BJP on Saturday said that no national president of any party had used "such words" for a PM before.

It interviewed Hollande on phone in which he said: "I intervened in this affair (Rafale) with the two prime ministers, to say that I was keen for this negotiation".

Former French President Francois Hollande told news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Friday, 21 September, that he was unaware whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, adding that "only Dassault can comment on this".

Earlier in the day, Mr Gandhi had said at a public meeting in Dungarpur district that people now thought that the country's "watchman" is a "thief".

Officials in India and France say Dassault had freely chosen to partner with Reliance, despite Ambani having no previous experience in the aeronautics sector.

Asked if the party will seek Modi's resignation, Gandhi said that ministers of the Modi government were speaking "lies" to protect the prime minister.

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The Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.

The Congress has also been demanding answers from the government on why state-run aerospace major HAL was not involved in the deal as finalised during the UPA.

Modi, who stormed to power in 2014 promising to rid India of deep-seated corruption, had no "moral right" to remain in power after the revelations from Hollande, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said.

In April 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris that India would buy the French fighter jets under a government-to-government deal.

The statement by the Ministry of Defence comes amid media reports of the former French President claiming that the Indian government suggested the private firm for the Rafale offset contract. Hollande responded: "We did not have a say on this subject".

Opponents of the Modi government had accused it of tweaking the contract to benefit a particular business house - the Reliance Defence of Anil Ambani - to be the "offset" partner of the French makers of the aircraft, Dassault Aviation. "It is reiterated that neither GoI nor French Govt had any say in the commercial decision".

According to news agency ANI, Prasad said, "It's my charge with full sense of responsibility, Rahul Gandhi is playing in hands of enemies of India by insisting upon disclosure of all weapon system". "Cat is out of the bag", screamed Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala as social media erupted with questions and barbs about what some described as the desperate efforts to hide the facts and mislead the nation. Senior ministers, including defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and finance minister Arun Jaitley, have dismissed any suggestion of a government role in the choice of Reliance.

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