NEW DELHI: Congress chief Rahul Gandhi led a blistering opposition attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday over the Rafale deal, accusing him of betraying India and dishonouring its soldiers, after former French president Francois Hollande's reported remarks contradicting the Indian government's stand.
Hollande was quoted by a French publication as saying that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani-led 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.
Leaders of the Congress, the Left and the Aam Aadmi Party among others lashed out at the government soon after Hollande's comments were reported.
Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "The PM personally negotiated & changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors. Thanks to François Hollande, we now know he personally delivered a deal worth billions of dollars to a bankrupt Anil Ambani. The PM has betrayed India. He has dishonoured the blood of our soldiers."
The Congress chief has been repeatedly targeting the government over the fighter aircraft deal, alleging corruption and cronyism.
"In the NDA-negotiated Rafale aircraft deal, we have got no aircraft, we have got only lies. What is the new lie that the government will put out in response to Mr Hollande? Defence Minister has been called out again! This time by then President of France, Mr Hollande," Congress leader P Chidambaram said.
The ruling BJP did not offer any official comment immediately while the Ministry of Defence said in a tweet that it is verifying the "Hollande's statement that GOI insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale".
"It is reiterated that neither the government of India nor the French government had any say in the commercial decision," it added.
BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said, "this is serious, if accurately reported".
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that Modi "hid behind the smokescreen of web of lies that he had weaved".
"Truth always prevails. Congress President Rahul Gandhi asked the Prime Minister in Parliament to look him into his eye and tell the truth. Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not dare to look straight. PM Modi looked away," he said.
He alleged that not only did the prime minister lie, but he made the defence minister, the finance minister and the law minister lie along with him.
"The collusion, the conspiracy and the complicity of the Modi government in denying a Rs 30,000 crore contract to public sector undertaking HAL in favour of Modiji's crony friend has now been exposed by the former French President.
"Truth is now out in the open for everyone to see and adjudge. It is now clear that chowkidar hi gunahgar hai (the watchman is the culprit)," Surjewala said The Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yachury accused the government of lying and misleading people.
"This Rafale deal is a scam if there was one. The Modi govt has lied and misled Indians. The whole truth must come out now. Why was the Indian government batting for one corporate house with no experience in defence manufacture?" Yechury tweeted.
In a swipe at Modi, AAP leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal asked the prime minister to come clean.
"The country wants to know the truth. Complete truth. Everyday Indian government's comments are turning out to false. People have started believing that something bad has really happened. Why else the government will lie everyday," he tweeted.