For a long time now, Rahul Gandhi has been asking questions on the Rafale deal. He has been asking why Modi has given Anil Ambani ₹1,30,000 crore / ₹1,00,000 crore / ₹ 30,000 crore, which is obviously false as Reliance share in offset business in Rafale deal is only around ₹800 crore. He is asking why Reliance with no experience in aviation has got the Rafale deal which is also wrong because Reliance is not making the jet or any of its parts. All the questions the Congress president is asking the government are based on pure fiction, with no basis in truth. But now the time has come to reverse the table, and for Rahul Gandhi to answer some questions himself.
The question that Congress must answer is what is the real reason behind Rahul Gandhi opposing the Rafale deal? The Rafale jet was selected by the previous Congress government after an extensive evaluation, there is no question about the quality of the product being purchased, there is not even any allegation that Dassault paid bribes to win the deal, which is usually the case with defence deals from Bofors to AgustaWestland, then why this relentless attack on the deal?
In the past week, the government has made some serious allegations on why Rahul Gandhi is attacking the Rafale deal. On January 2, while participating in the debate on Rafale in Lok Sabha, Arun Jaitley had said that “there is a speciality about UPA in decision making, that is if the aircraft being selected is not the one whose commerce you have dealt with, then delay the transaction, make it impossible”. At another point, when Congress MPs were flying paper planes in the house, Jaitley said that this is being done in memory of the Eurofighter deal. With these comments, the finance minister was clearly hinting that while the bidding process for the MMRCA was going on during the UPA government, a parallel backroom deal was going on with Eurofighter for probable bribes. Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon had entered the final round of bidding, among the initial 6 contenders, but eventually, Rafale was selected in 2012 on technical parameters.
Earlier also, there were rumours that Rahul Gandhi had met Eurofighter officials during one of his trips to Europe. This was just before Rahul Gandhi started making allegations over the Rafale deal.
Indian Air Force needed new fighters on an urgent basis due to depleting squadron numbers. The process for purchasing 126 MMRCA had started in 2007, Rafale was finally selected as the winner in 2012, but still, no contract was signed by the government with Dassault for the purchase of the jets. Why it was not done? Was there attempts to scuttle the deal and award the contract to Eurofighter? It is time Rahul Gandhi answers these questions.
The new developments in the AgustaWestland bribery investigation have made these questions even stronger. According to reports, two middlemen who received kickbacks in the VVIP chopper deal also strategised for Eurofighter in the MMRCA deal. A document recovered during the raids at Italian middleman Guido Haschke’s residence and offices has revealed that Christian Michel and Guido Haschke were working on a plan to ensure that Eurofighter wins the deal to supply 126 aircraft to India and scuttle the Rafale deal. The middlemen had discussed the need to engage a bureaucratical and political navigator in India, which was a requirement to win defence deals during the long history of Congress rule in India. It says that the person to be engaged must be close to Defence ministry, key bureaucrats and the minister, the prime minister, the finance minister, and the Leading Family. Apart from talking about engaging with bureaucrats and politicians, the document also suggests lobby with three Air Force officials.
This is the second scam where the name of a Family has emerged. In the AgustaWestland case, a note found with Christian Michel mentions that “Fam” was paid €15-16 million, in a scribbled list with other abbreviations like “AP”, “Pol”, “Bur”, “DG Acq”, “AF” etc. During the interrogations, Christian Michel has taken the names of “Mrs Gandhi” and “the son of the Italian lady”. The link between Michel and the Gandhi family and other leaders in the Congress party is well known and goes back to decades. In fact, Christian Michel’s father Wolfgang Max Richard Michel was a consultant for AgustaWestland for the Indian territory, and he was close to the Gandhi family. According to CBI, Wolfgang knew Indira Gandhi since 1970s. Christian got the contracts in Indian establishment, including the ‘leading family’, thought his father.
As the probable involvement of ‘the family’ in these deals is not enough, there is another angle, the involvement of defence dealer Sanjay Bhandari, who is close to Robert Vadra. During a raid by Income Tax department, sensitive defence ministry documents were found at his offices. Bhandari is currently living in the UK, while he is wanted by authorities in India. According to reports, a file related to the purchase of 126 jets had gone missing from the defence ministry and it was later found on the road. It is alleged that Bhandari had stolen the file. It is alleged that Bhandari used to photocopy crucial files and passed on to defence contractors that he had links with.
These new revelations point towards a vested interest in Rahul Gandhi trying to scuttle the Rafale deal. In fact, even after Rafale was selected as the winner of the bid, then defence minister A K Anthony wanted the selected of Rafale as lowest bidder to be re-examined. Arun Jaitley has said that there was tremendous pressure on A K Anthony to cancel the Rafale deal.
Why the deal was frozen after the Rafale was selected in a long process which started and ended when Congress was in power. Was defence minister A K Anthony pressurised to scuttle the deal? Is the attack on Rafale influenced by Eurofighter? Rahul Gandhi must answer these questions.