The controversy over the Rafale jet deal took a new turn on Monday with the BJP dragging in UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra’s name. The BJP alleged that Mr Vadra was keen on getting the defence deal to help an arms dealer friend, but since he didn’t get it, the Congress is now trying to take revenge by maligning the NDA government.
Addressing reporters here on Monday, minister of state for agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat said, “Vadra, the Gandhi family and the then UPA government wanted that the Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation should have been done under Vadra’s company, Offset India Solutions, which was formed in 2008.”
But as Mr Vadra’s company was not accepted as the “middleman”, the UPA government cancelled the deal with France, he alleged.
“You must have heard the name of Sanjay Bhandari, who works as a middleman in defence deals. His name had earlier appeared in how he arranged air tickets for Vadra and how he got his home interior work done,” Mr Shekhawat said.
Claiming that Mr Vadra and Mr Bhandari “represent themselves as middlemen at many defence expos”, and that Mr Vadra was seen with Mr Bhandari “at the Dubai Defence Expo”, he said that when finance minister Arun Jaitley asked why Rafale deal was cancelled by the UPA government, the Congress remained silent. “So I am answering it today, that it was cancelled for the commercial interest of Vadra,” Mr Shekhawat said.
Mr Vadra has denied the allegations. Mr Shekhawat also lashed out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi, saying that his allegations on Rafale had an “international dimension” which the government will expose and that former French President Francois Hollande is part of the “nexus” to sabotage the Rafale deal.
He alleged that there is a conspiracy to get the deal scrapped, defame the country and lower the morale of the Indian Air Force.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman also attacked the Congress, calling the entire issue a “perception battle”.
“We will fight this battle. We’ll go to places and state facts on record on Rafale. Congress’ designs to run a smear campaign against us at an international level,” the minister was quoted by a news agency.
She also lashed out at the Congress president, saying that his allegations had an “international dimension” which the government will expose.
However, an unfazed Congress president continued his tirade against the NDA and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
On a day when the Congress moved the CVC seeking a probe into the Rafale deal, Mr Gandhi charged the country’s “chowkidar” (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) with snatching away money from the poor and handing it over to industrialist Anil Ambani, who heads Reliance Defence which has joined hands with Rafale jet maker Dassault Aviation.
The Congress president, during a visit to Amethi, posed questions to the Prime Minister on several issues relating to the Rafale deal and demanded clarification on why Mr Hollande has called him a “thief”.
Mr Gandhi also asked the Prime Minister why the Rafale jet price was not disclosed and how Mr Ambani got the contract.
“The chowkidar of the country has taken out Rs 20,000 crore from the pockets of the poor, martyrs and the jawans and put it in the pocket of Ambani,” Mr Gandhi said.