New Delhi, Sep 25: In the midst of high profile debate over Rafale and the issue of corruption, the ruling BJP seemed to be getting into the challenging task of preparing a more convincing narrative that Congress president Rahul Gandhi has 'motives' and 'personal agenda' behind raking the row and also that there is an "international dimension" to it.
Will cancellation of Rafale add to problems for Air Force preparedness and is it this that is making Pakistan leaders virtually back Rahul Gandhi in sabotaging the Rafale deal ?
"The Congress is rattled by the fact that the Defence Ministry has been able to function under PM Narendra Modi without dalals (brokers who in defence industry are also called service provides)," a key source said. "It is difficult for them to understand why and how this is possible?," he said.
The reference is to one individual called Sanjay Bhandari - and the Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat dedicated a press conference on this onetime student of Modern School and who reportedly made it to the corridors of South Block through his contact with Robert Vadra - brother in law of Rahul Gandhi.
"During UPA regime, the government of the day was put under pressure of Robert Vadra so that the Rafale deal being negotiated then should be brokered through Vadra's company. Because their idea to help (Vadra's or Bhandari's company) did not materialise then, therefore today also they want to cancel the deal (as worked out under Modi government) and want to show Dassault Aviation its place," Shekhawat has alleged.
"It appears they want to give a message to Dassault ....There is conscious effort to send a message to foreign defence dealers that if they can put pressure on them while they are out of power, imagine what we can do when they are in power,” Shekhawat said.
Absence of 'brokers' and the Congress attempt to find fault with the deal - one way or the other - according to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is largely a 'perception battle' and that the ruling dispensation will definitely fight and try to take it across the country. On his own, BJP sources say, Bhandari's is a story of meteoric rise notwithstanding the fact that he merely looked after his father’s homeopathic clinics in Central Delhi.
"Things changed once he got wind of how things really move in country's capital if one had the right connections. His meetings with right people came in handy as in 2012 Defence Expo he got some of the spotlight. Gradually he moved into the inner circle," the source said.
The Delhi police had registered an FIR against Bhandari in October 2016 after classified documents were recovered from his home. The CBI also registered a preliminary enquiry against Bhandari and his partner Bimal Sareen for their alleged role in the Pilatus basic trainer aircraft deal.
Bhandari was introduced in the circle that matters as the chief promoter of Offset India Solutions floated in 2008. Now, the BJP leaders want to build up a case that the UPA wanted to help him owing to the Robert Vadra factor but as Dassault Aviation was against the idea of taking in "Bhandari-Vadra run OIS" as one of the brokers or 'service providers' -even the Manmohan Singh government, from a much advance stage and after years of negotiations , cancelled the deal.
Predictably, Dassault waited for its turn and once the Narendra Modi government evinced interest it also made forward movement to earn the lucrative contract. In 2016, various agencies under Finance Ministry like ED and Financial Intelligence Unit could dig out information that despite not making big in terms of inking pacts or winning contact, Bhandari would take the Defence Expo seriously and even invest huge amount to 'market himself'.
In fact, a BJP source also maintains that in March 2016, he signed a joint venture with a French company SAMP that makes 'penetrator bombs' "It is a different story that SAMP itself turned sick in months to come," the source said. BJP also has given 'international dimension' to the episode and Gajendra Singh Shekhawat has alleged that the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi are 'amada and tatpar (desperate and hyper active) to get the deal cancelled".
Pakistan leaders trying to interfere in India's domestic politics has only given BJP this 'window' to equate Rahul Gandhi's attack against Modi with that of Pakistan leaders' slamming India's Prime Minister. "A large number of common Indians want Narendra Modi to continue as Prime Minister, but Pakistan wants Rahul Gandhi to be Prime Minister," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said.
"This thread of commonality between Congress and Pakistan, can it be called a mere coincidence? Or is it more than coincidence," he said, adding "the manner Congress leaders have commented on situation in India, and the manner Pakistan has supported them, I will say it is all part of a design and not co-incidence".