Rahul Gandhi has ‘Rafale phobia’, says Ravi Shankar Prasad

Hyderabad | The BJP on Sunday took a swipe at Congress President Rahul Gandhi for his remarks against the Prime Minister on the Rafale deal, accusing him of playing with the country’s security in the most “irresponsible manner”.

Dismissing Gandhi’s allegations, Union Law Minister and BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said he was “lying shamelessly” on the fighter jet deal and has got “Rafale phobia”. “Rahul Gandhi has Rafale phobia…The kind of language he is using against the Prime Minister does not behove him,” Prasad told reporters here.

Citing cases of alleged corruption involving members of the Gandhi family, Prasad said, “How many corruption charges were levelled against his father (Rajiv Gandhi) in the Bofors case?…What has been the corruption record of Indiraji (former prime minister), his grandmother? We have never used the kind of language he has used against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”

The Union Minister for Law, Electronics and Information Technology charged the then Congress-led UPA government with not finalising the Rafale deal, alleging it again went for review because the party never inked any agreement unless it received “commission” (kickbacks). “As they did not get commission, therefore they kept it (deal) pending,” Prasad said.

After coming to power in 2014, Modi decided to go ahead with the Rafale deal as IAF needed fighter aircraft. Reiterating the NDA government’s claim that the basic price of Rafale negotiated by it was cheaper than what the UPA had agreed to, the senior BJP leader said, “Modi government’s price is 9 per cent cheaper than UPA’s and with all weapons loaded, it is 20 per cent less.”

The previous UPA government was negotiating with Dassault Aviation for procurement of 126 Rafale jets under which 18 jets were to supplied in a fly-away condition and 108 were to be manufactured in India by the French company along with HAL. However, the UPA could not seal the deal.

“The Supreme Court had examined it thoroughly and found there is no commercial interest…,” Prasad said, adding the Centre had no role in picking the offset partner. “Rahul Gandhi please don’t play with the security of India… What he says in India is picked up by the Pakistani press the next day.” “Rahul Gandhi in the most irresponsible manner is playing with the security of India,” Prasad added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French president Francois Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.

Opposition Congress has accused the government of choosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. (HAL) as offset partner to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.

Hollande’s reported comments that New Delhi had proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the contract has escalated into a major political row, even as the French government said it had no say in the choice of the Indian industrial partner for the multi-billion dollar deal. However, Dassault Aviation refuted Hollande’s claims and said that it was their decision to partner with Reliance.

In December last year, the Supreme Court had given the Narendra Modi government a clean chit on the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France and dismissed all the petitions seeking a direction to the CBI to register an FIR for alleged irregularities in the deal.

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