NEW DELHI: The Congress on Monday asserted that the government has no option but to order a JPC probe into the allegations of corruption in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets and questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence even 48 hours after an investigation in France was ordered into the deal.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said truth cannot be silenced while former defence minister AK Antony said the the Modi government cannot escape accountability by keeping mum and alleged that it points towards a "mal-intent to hush up" alleged corruption in the deal. "Truth can't be silenced.Unlike 'Modia'," Gandhi tweeted, using the hashtag "RafaleScam".
He also shared a video of a journalist of French media firm Mediapart who claimed that the then French president Francois Hollande had said that the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance group as a partner of Dassault in the deal.
Antony alleged that "prima facie corruption in the Rafale deal is now apparent", as the French Public Prosecution Services has now appointed a judge to investigate "corruption, influence peddling and brazen favouritism" in the 36-aircraft Rafale deal.
"The intriguing silence of the Modi Government points towards mal-intent to hush up the corruption. The refusal of the BJP Government to probe and punish the guilty is even more astonishing, pointing towards a concerted effort to bury the scam," the former defence minister said.
He said the series of events and documents in public records have now affirmed the stance of the Congress party about "wrongdoing and corruption" in the Rafale deal. "What is, indeed, mysterious is the fact that despite 48 hours having lapsed, the prime minister and the defence minister have decided to maintain complete silence on the ordering of corruption investigation into Rafale deal by the French Public Prosecution Services" he added.
"The simple question is why has the government chosen to remain 'mum'? Why have the prime minister and the defence minister not come forward to react to the shocking and sensational development of a corruption probe in the Rafale deal by the Public Prosecution Services of France? "Can Modi Government escape accountability for corruption allegations by its intriguing silence? Is it not the responsibility of the Government to come forward and accept the truth," Antony asked.
The senior Congress leader said this is even more important as 36 aircraft are being purchased by India under an inter-governmental agreement and one party to the agreement - the French government has proceeded to order an investigation through a judge. "The only way forward is to accept accountability and order a free and fair JPC probe into the entire set of facts, evidence and allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal," he said.
Antony alleged that Prime Minister Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015 and unilaterally announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft "without going through any tender process and in complete derogation of the 'Defence Procurement Procedure'".
He claimed that every defence expert was shocked by this unilateral order which is India's biggest defence deal. "It was even more surprising because there was an ongoing negotiation for the purchase of 126 Rafale aircraft in pursuance of an international tender, which envisaged 108 aircraft to be made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and 18 aircraft to be purchased in fly-away condition," he said.
He said this international tender for 126 aircraft also envisaged the all-important 'transfer of technology' to India, but till today neither the prime minister nor the BJP government has explained the reason for reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36 or the reason for sacrificing the transfer of technology to India.
The BJP government has also not explained the basis or the reason for enhancing the price of the 36 aircraft or for denying the offset contract to the government's PSU, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, he said.
The BJP government has also not stated the reason for the fact that when the clearance from 'Defence Acquisition Council' had been given and there was an ongoing tender for which negotiations were being finalised, how could the prime minister and the government unilaterally enter into another agreement, the senior Congres leader said.
The opposition Congress has been alleging "wrongdoing" in the defence deal and had raised it as one of the main issues to target Modi during the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
It has demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe and is now set to escalate its attack on the government by raising the issue during the Monsoon session of Parliament from July 19. The government has denied allegations of corruption in the deal.
The BJP had on Sunday hit out at the Congress for again raising questions over the Rafale deal and sought to know why its government did not procure the fighter planes for 10 years despite a depleted squadron strength of the Indian Air Force. "Is it because the Gandhi family did not get their desired 'commission'?" BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had said.