NEW DELHI Upping the ante over the Rafale issue, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Saturday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a Rs 130,000 crore “surgical strike” on the defence forces.
His renewed attack on Modi came a day after a French media report quoted former French president Francois Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and France did not have a choice.
“The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a One Hundred & Thirty Thousand Crore, SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defence forces. Modi Ji you dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul,” Gandhi tweeted.
The report in ‘Mediapart’, a French language publication, quoted Hollande as saying, “It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani. We had no choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us.”
Reacting to Hollande’s reported remark that is at variance with the Indian government’s position, a defence ministry spokesperson said Friday, “The report referring to former French president Hollande’s statement that government of India insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified.”
The spokesperson also said, “It is reiterated that neither the government nor the French government had any say in the commercial decision.”
The French government Friday said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the Rafale fighter jet deal, asserting that French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the contract.
Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal. The government has been maintaining it did not have any role in selection of the offset partner by Dassault.
In a statement, Dassault Aviation said it decided to partner with Reliance Defence in accordance with the policy of ‘Make in India’.
Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French president Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.
The opposition party has been accusing the government of choosing Reliance Defence over state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to benefit the private firm though it did not have any experience in the aerospace sector.