VALSAD: Taking the Rafale row to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state, Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday claimed that even a former French president agrees that the 'chowkidar' (watchman), a term he often uses for Modi, is a thief.
Gandhi also alleged that Modi conducted "parallel negotiations" with Dassault Aviation, the company which makes Rafale, on the multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal.
Addressing a rally at Dharampur in Gujarat's Valsad district, Gandhi pooh-poohed the NDA government's Rs 6,000 a year income support scheme for farmers, saying a Congress government would offer a better scheme for the poor.
The rally was mostly attended by members of local tribal communities.
The Congress chief repeated his refrain "Chwokidar Chor Hai" (the watchman is a thief) to attack Modi.
As he said "Chowkidar" and paused, the audience chanted "Chor Hai". He then asked people to say it in Gujarati, ("Chor Chhe"), making them chant the slogan with him.
"The defence ministry and the Air Force said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi conducted parallel negotiations with Dassault Aviation on Rafale deal," Gandhi said.
"The slogan 'Chowkidar Chor Hai' is also famous in France, and even a former French president says 'Chowkidar Chor Hai'," he said.
Gandhi was apparently referring to foremer France president Francois Hollande's reported claim that the French government had no role in choosing industrialist Anil Ambani's company as an offset partner.
Gandhi also accused Modi of being a "middleman" of Anil Ambani in the Rafale deal.
"There is a demand from all over the country that farmers' loans should be waived. But Narendra Modi and (Arun) Jaitley have rejected that demand," he said.
"You do not want to waive farmers' loans but on the other hand you waive Rs 3.5 lakh crore loans of 15 big industrialists," Gandhi alleged.
He ridiculed the income support scheme for farmers announced in the interim Union budget, under which farmers with small land holding will get Rs 6,000 per year.
"In the last two-three months we have been thinking of giving guaranteed income directly to the poor people of this country. This will be a historic step," Gandhi said.
"The way Narendra Modi deposits Rs 30,000 crore directly in the bank account of Anil Ambani, the same way Congress party will deposit the money in the bank accounts of the poor, directly," Gandhi said.
"Clapping went on for five minutes in Parliament (when the finance minister announced an income support scheme for farmers). I was there. I learnt that the BJP has given Rs 3 per day to poor farmers and a total of Rs 17 per family per day.
"After that announcement, BJP MPs continued to clap for five minutes in the House," he said.
"You give Rs 30,000 crore to him (Anil Ambani) and you just have only Rs 17 for the farmers. You are insulting them," the Congress chief said.
"Our income guarantee scheme will be much more than Rs 3 or Rs 17 (per day). The poor people of the country will get the money directly transferred into their accounts. You (people) will be clapping and not those MPs," Gandhi said.
He also took a swipe at the Bharat Mala road connectivity scheme of the Modi government.
"Bharat Mala is 'Bharat Mara' (India killed) scheme. It is killing Bharat as the government is acquiring lands of farmers and tribals," he said.
The Congress chief has been relentlessly targeting the government over the Rafale jet deal.
The government and Anil Ambani have been vehemently denying the allegations of any wrongdoing in the deal. A CAG report says the deal negotiated by the NDA government was cheaper than the earlier one initiated when the Congress-led UPA was in power.