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Congress leader AK Antony says he ‘delayed Rafale deal in national interest’ even as Rahul Gandhi continues to blame Modi govt

With the entire controversy refusing to die down, perhaps it would serve Congress well to first come clean and answer mounting questions on the Eurofighter link, Sanjay Bhandari and the Christian Michel revelations. 

For many months now, Rahul Gandhi has gone to town blaming the Modi government and even the Prime Minister personally for some impropriety in the Rafale deal even as the Supreme Court gave the deal a clean chit. Rahul Gandhi has also claimed that PM Modi “diluted” the Rafale deal as Congress was close to signing a deal for 126 Rafales while the Modi government has decided to purchase only 36 Rafales. He fails to mention that Congress was nowhere close to signing the deal and in that deal, it had decided on purchasing only 18 Rafales in fly-away condition while the Modi government is buying 36 in fly-away condition. Now, Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony has stated, contrary to Rahul Gandhi’s tall claims that Congress delayed the Rafale deal in “national interest”.

As reported by Times of India, AK Antony has said that the Rafale deal was delayed by him as the Defence Minister due to “national interest”, and PM Modi, has ignored ‘national interest” by signing the deal.

AK Antony then proceeded to blame the NDA government for the delay saying that after the CAG report was submitted, Modi proceeded to cancel the original deal and renegotiate for 36 Rafales. Here too AK Antony forgets that the Congress MMRCA deal was stuck in limbo and essentially, there was no deal when the Modi government took over. In fact, the Congress government in the original MMRCA deal was negotiated for 18 Rafales in fly-away condition while the Modi government has ordered 36 jets in fly-away condition.

The senior Congress leader also said letters from “then stalwarts of BJP, Subramanian Swamy and Yashwant Sinha,” to the defence ministry, complaining of irregularities in UPA regime selecting Rafale as L1 caused a last-minute delay in finalising the deal.

However, in the parliament, Arun Jaitley had also referred to this very argument that is being presented by senior Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony.

Jaitley said that the UPA government gave acceptance of necessity (AON) for the Rafale jets. when UPA gave AON then in 2007 there was a tender invitation. He said that the government can acquire such jets in two ways. Either by tender or by the government to government agreement. After 6 bids came in, two were shortlisted. Eurofighter and Dassault. Then, during pricement, Rafale was chosen. He said that the Congress government sat on the decision for a long time. While the air force wanted the defence minister to buy the jets, the then defence minister’s colleagues were “pressuring him to not accept Rafale”. He said it was because of this pressure, that the defence minister had written in his file that the Dassault Rafale is fine, but the process by which they were considered L1, should be re-examined. He said that when he became the Defence Minister after the Modi government came to power, this was one of the first submissions made by the Indian Air Force.

Arun Jaitley had opened a pandora’s box in his Lok Sabha speech when he insinuated that the Rafale deal was delayed by Congress because of the Eurofighter.

Earlier, it was alleged that Eurofighter sales director had met senior leaders of two political parties in India to raise allegations of a scam in the Rafale deal. It is also rumoured that Rahul Gandhi had met the company officials when he was in Germany in August 2018. According to allegations, the narrative against the Rafale deal has been built up by experts in the US and Europe, based on inputs from Eurofighter.

It was revealed that Christian Michel, the middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper scam who has named ‘Mrs Gandhi’, ‘Italian Lady’s son R’ and has links to Kamal Nath’s family, was lobbying for Eurofighter over Rafale. In fact, even Sanjay Bhandari, who is a close associate of Robert Vadra was angling for Dassault offset agreement, which he did not get.

With the entire controversy refusing to die down, perhaps it would serve Congress well to first come clean and answer mounting questions on the Eurofighter link, Sanjay Bhandari and the Christian Michel revelations.

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