The Rahul Gandhi led Congress party has gone hammer and tongs against the Modi government alleging a scam in the Rafale deal. While several experts from all quarters have explained why there is no scam in the inter-governmental deal between India and France, the allegations don’t seem to stop. Rahul had even claimed that he had a one to one conversation with French President Macron and in the conversation, he was informed that India is free to divulge information regarding the price of the jets. The French government had immediately issued a clarification saying that no such meeting between Rahul Gandhi and Macron had taken place at all.
Recently, Former French President’s Hollande’s statement that the Indian government had suggested the name of Anil Ambani’s Reliance as one of the offset partners had struck a massive row. However, soon, news surfaced that Hollande had partially made contradictory statements saying that he was aware of no pressure to choose Reliance. Rahul Gandhi had immediately lashed out and called the Prime Minister a thief alleging quid-pro-quo.
In the meantime, links between Sanjay Bhandari, a close friend of Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law, Robert Vadra had also emerged in the Rafale deal. It was revealed that from 2012 to 2015, Sanjay Bhandari was lobbying to become the offset partner in the Rafale deal and Dassault had refused to indulge him.
After these links emerged, speculations gripped the nation. Many wondered whether Rahul Gandhi and the Congress were trying to sabotage the Rafale deal because Sanjay Bhandari did not the offset deal. Amidst such speculations, another theory was floated on social networking website, Twitter.
Vikas Bhaduria, a journalist with ABP News alleged that recently, Sales Director of a big company of fighter aircraft’s met five senior leaders of two different parties to raise the Rafale issue as a scam so that both the company/weapons dealer and political party benefits.
Sales Director of a big company of fighter aircraft’s met five senior leaders of two diffrent parties to raise the Rafale issue to malign the image of govt & @narendramodi so that both company/weapon dealer & political party is benefited if the deal gets cancelled.plz find out pic.twitter.com/i5X2hkD9KT
— Vikas Bhadauria ABP (@vikasbha) September 28, 2018
He then said that the first meeting took place in Germany in the last week of August this year.
Sources: Hamburg (germany), where first meeting took place in last week of august this year.
Sales Director of fighter aircraft company & senior leader, accompanied by two others,met for hours to raise Rafale issue as a scam. https://t.co/dVFaNWUfZ7
— Vikas Bhadauria ABP (@vikasbha) September 29, 2018
Veteran journalist Kanchan Gupta also weighed in on the theory. He said that the buzz indicates that the meeting was set up by some steel tycoon between representatives of the European defence MNC and Indian politicians.
— Kanchan Gupta (@KanchanGupta) September 29, 2018
On 1st September 2018, MyNation had also reported that top Congress leaders had met US arms company before the Rafale storm arrived. Interestingly, Rahul Gandhi himself was in Germany towards the end of August 2018. Rahul had tweeted about his Germany trip on 23rd August 2018.
I began my 2 day visit to Germany with a speech at the Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg, yesterday. Today, I am in Berlin to meet members of the German Bundestag, NGO’s & Business Leaders. I will also be addressing a public meeting organised by the Indian Overseas Congress. pic.twitter.com/11omr91GI3
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 23, 2018
The theory, though unconfirmed also gathers steam because when the bids were accepted by the Indian government, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Rafale by Dassault were the only two contenders that met the specific requirements. While the Indian government decided to go with Rafale, it is reported that Eurofighter also lobbied rather aggressively to get selected.
The Eurofighter Typhoon was designed originally as an air superiority fighter and is manufactured by a consortium of Airbus, BAE Systems and Leonardo that conducts the majority of the project through a joint holding company, Eurofighter Jagdflugzeug GmbH formed in 1986.
Interestingly, Sanjay Bhandari who is reported to be a close associate of Robert Vadra and had lobbied to become the offset partner of Dassault from 2012 to 2015 was reportedly an agent for Airbus. After a whistleblower had alleged graft in chopper deal and leak of sensitive documents in 2012, India’s relationship with Airbus had hit rocky waters.
It was reported that Airbus Group has informed the Defence Ministry of an internal investigation into the allegations of the whistleblower over the tender for 14 twin-engine EC725 helicopters for the Indian Coast Guard. The deal was estimated to be worth over Rs. 2,000 crores.
To quote from a 2012 report (emphasis ours):
It is now being speculated that the whistleblower’s allegation and the leak of documents, which first surfaced in December last year, may have been the reason for the non- extension of its commercial bid for the chopper deal.
According to the ET report, the anonymous letter sent to the Defence Ministry alleged that “benchmarking norms were changed and spare engine price calculations were hidden to favour Airbus and named three top coast guard officers as beneficiaries”.
The report also alleged that “fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari and former business consultant Deepak Talwar, both of whom left the country after cases were registered against them by investigating agencies, acted as agents for Airbus”.
Sanjay Bhandari is a notorious arms dealer who is allegedly connected to Robert Vadra. The second man mentioned in the 2012 report, Deepak Talwar was also a notorious lobbyist.
In 2017, reportedly, Income Tax Department chargesheet against Talwar, a self-proclaimed corporate consultant (a fancy name for a lobbyist), accusing him of receiving massive kickbacks worth Rs. 1000 crore between 2008 and 2011 for influencing aviation policies of the UPA government to favour his ‘clients’. During the investigation, Praful Patel and Digvijay Singh’s names had also emerged in connection with Deepak Talwar. In 2018, Deepak Talwar was also booked by CBI along with Tony Fernandes of Air Asia for alleged violation of norms in obtaining international flying licenses.
Though these speculations are only in the realm of possibility and no proof of these speculations have yet surfaced, some facts do warrant a further probe.