In a direct attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the multi-crore Rafale jet deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi today said that the PM had personally gone to Paris to get the deal signed, and that he is behind the scam.
Talking to reporters, Rahul said, "The Defence Minister says that we will not reveal the amount paid for buying Rafale aircrafts. What does this mean? This only means there is a scam. Modiji personally went to Paris, he changed the deal. The whole country knows it."
Shortly before his big attack on Modi, the 47-year-old leader had also tweeted: "Top Secret (Not for Distribution). RM (Defence Minister) says the price negotiated for each RAFALE jet by the PM and his "reliable" buddy is a state secret. Action Points 1. Informing Parliament about the price is a national security threat 2. Brand all who ask, Anti-National."
The hashtag with Rahul Gandhi's tweet called the deal with France to buy 36 fighter jets #TheGreatRafaleMystery.
On Monday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had told Parliament that the details of the deal with France for the Rafale fighter jets cannot be disclosed since the Inter-Governmental Agreement makes it "classified information".
"As per Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement between Governments of India and France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between Government of France and Government of India in 2008," she said.
The Congress has alleged that there are irregularities in the deal for buying 36 Rafale fighter jets off-shelf from France, claiming that they were being bought at a price higher than negotiated in the previous multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal under which 126 fighter jets were to be bought, and included a number of fighters being assembled in India.
Earlier today, Congress Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, asked why the Modi government decided to buy 36 instead of the original plan to buy 126 Rafale jets from France.
"Why did the government decide to buy 36 and not 126 jets? This decision was taken without the approval of the Cabinet Committee for Security. What is the cost of each Rafale jet? When we entered the deal, each jet cost Rs 526 crore. Why is this Rs 1517 crore today?" Azad asked.
Earlier in order to replace the existing MiG-21 aircraft, a case to procure 126 Mirage-2000 aircraft was initiated in the year 2000, which was later converted to procurement of 126 MMRCAs.
A Request For Proposal (RFP) was issued in 2007, wherein six vendors had responded. On completion of Field Evaluation Trials, only two out of the six vendors were found to be fully compliant.
Commercial proposals of both vendors EADS and Dassault Aviation were opened and negotiations were commenced with Dassault as the L1 vendor in November 2011. The RFP was formally withdrawn on June 24, 2015.
India and France signed the inter-government agreement for buying 36 Rafale fighters, off the shelf, on September 23, 2016, following long negotiations on the deal, agreed upon during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to France in April 2015.