NEW DELHI: A political slugfest has been reignited in India after French portal Mediapart's report on alleged kickbacks paid between 2007 and 2012 to a middleman involved in the Rafale deal, and on the CBI allegedly failing to probe these charges despite having the relevant documents.
The Congress accused the Modi government of conducting an operation to "cover-up" corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and asked why it did not initiate an investigation into the role of a middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him.
Party spokesperson Pawan Khera alleged that the BJP government has sacrificed national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.
French investigative journal Mediapart in fresh revelations in a report has exposed how middleman Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence, he said.
The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave a clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Khera claimed, citing the Mediapart report.
Meanwhile, the national spokesperson of the BJP Sambit Patra slammed the Congress, which was in power between 2007 and 2012, for corruption in the Rafale deal and termed INC (Indian National Congress) as "I need commission".
Addressing a press conference at BJP headquarters, Patra said, "We all saw the way the opposition parties, especially the Congress party, tried to create a false atmosphere regarding Rafale before the 2019 elections. They felt that this would give him some political advantage."
"Today, we are going to put some important documents in front of you, so that it gives a clear picture on whose era the corruption happened. A French media organization some time ago revealed that there was corruption in Rafale. This whole matter happened between 2007 to 2012," he added.
Slamming the Congress party, Patra said, "Indian National Congress, in my opinion, should be renamed 'I need commission'."
"We had seen kind of canards spread by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Congress before 2019 elections. Congress had done press conferences against PM Narendra Modi and BJP about allegations of corruption. Rafale was a story of commission. The article published in France media talks about Dassault aviation and 7.5 million euros, 65 crores rupees commission was paid by it. A middle man was paid this amount. At least, 7.5 million euros were paid, as per the article. This article states that a maximum of 11 million euros was paid as commission to SM Gupta. His name surfaced in the AugustaWestland case. This is not just a coincidence. There is a conspiracy. Rest, I believe is a matter of investigation," he said.
Patra further said that Rahul Gandhi is perhaps in Italy currently and should reply from there on how this corruption was done during the UPA tenure.
"The Indian Air force required these aircraft and this deal was kept pending for 10 years. There was no conclusion of negotiations," he said.
"The article mentioned three words like corruption, influence peddling and favouritism. Congress is double-faced," the BJP spokesperson said.