New Delhi, Sep 2: With the elections to the state assemblies of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram round the corner, the Congress is looking to turn the heat on the NDA government over the alleged irregularities in the deal for Rafale fighter jets.
With party president Rahul Gandhi leading from the front, the principal opposition party has been holding protests across the country over the past week to highlight the alleged irregularities in the deal before the people. As part of the nationwide campaign to 'expose' the corruption in the Rafale deal, which began on August 25,
spokespersons of the party, including Anand Sharma, Jaipal Reddy, Ajay Maken, Shakeel Ahmed, Randeep Surjewala, Manpreet Badal, Pawan Khera, Raj Babbar, Priyanka Chaturvedi , Jaiveer Shergill and others have been holding press conferences in various parts of the country.
Congress will be holding as many as 100 press conferences across the country and till now, the conferences have been held in New Delhi, Srinagar, Jalandhar, Jodhpur, Rajkot, Nashik, Bikaspur, Dehradun, Gwalior, Mandi, Meerut, Hubli, Bengaluru, Coimbatore and Jhansi. Simultaneously, protests have also been held by local units of the Congress across the country.
Apart from senior leaders and former Ministers, Congress has fielded 50 leaders for the month-long campaign to take on the Modi government. The National Democratic Alliance’s decision to enter a government-to-government deal with France to buy 36 Rafael warplanes made by Dassault was announced in April 2015, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi 's visit to France.
The agreement was signed a little over a year later. The deal signed by the NDA government replaced the previous United Progressive Alliance regime’s decision to buy 126 Rafael aircraft, 108 of which were to be made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd.
The Congress has charged the NDA government with not following proper defence procurement procedures in signing the deal. It has alleged that approval of the Cabinet Committee for security was not obtained before signing the deal.
The deal has also come under attack from the Congress due to the fact that one of the offset deals signed by Dassault was with Anil Ambani's Reliance Group. The Congress claimed that the earlier deal was scrapped and a new one signed just to benefit Mr Ambani. It also claimed that the company, owned by Ambani, does not have any past experience in defence production.
Viewing the Rafale deal as an opportunity to put the government on the mat and reap electoral dividends, the Congress has been relentlessly attacking the NDA government. Alleging that it is “the corruption of the century”, the Congress has been claiming that the deal was aimed at bailing out corporate crony capitalist friends of the Prime Minister. Addressing a press conference here earlier this week, Mr Gandhi said, 'The truth is that Prime Minister signed the deal just to benefit Anil Ambani.'
The Congress has claimed that the Modi government was buying each aircraft at a cost of Rs 1,670 crore when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime had finalised a price of Rs 570 crore per aircraft in 2012. Political analysts admit that the Rafale deal could be a key issue ahead of the assembly polls to the four states, that is crucial for the fortunes of the Congress party.In fact, party sources say that the ruling regime has been defensive on the issue. The coming days could see the Congress step up its attacks on the government on the issue.
Party leaders say that they would continue its attacks on the government till their demand for constituting a joint parliamentary committee to probe the deal is accepted. (UNI)