Rafale deal: BJP, Congress trade words after new bribery report
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday blamed the Opposition Congress for alleged corruption in the procurement of Rafale fighter jets. A recent Mediapart report stated that Rafale-maker Dassault Aviation paid at least 7.5 million euros to a middleman between 2007 and 2012 to secure the deal with the Indian government. The BJP said the former Congress-led central government was paid the bribe.
- Alleged corruption in the Rafale deal has been a major embarrassment for India for many years.
- The former Congress-led UPA government had failed to secure a deal with Dassault Aviation.
- The deal for 36 Rafale jets was finally inked in September 2016 when the BJP-led NDA government was in power.
- Both parties have blamed each other over reports of alleged irregularities in the deal.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra demanded a clarification from the Congress party, particularly former party President Rahul Gandhi. He said a "commission" of Rs. 65 crore (roughly 7.5 million euros) was paid to a middleman under the Congress regime. Mediapart identified the middleman as Sushen Gupta, who is also accused in the AgustaWestland scam involving VVIP choppers.
Patra said Gupta's involvement is "too much of a coincidence" to not be a conspiracy. He was apparently referring to the Robert Vadra link in the AgustaWestland scam. Vadra is married to Priyanka Gandhi Vadra—a member of the Gandhi-Nehru family that centers the Congress party.
Patra slammed Congress for "misleading" the country ahead of the 2019 general elections by implicating the BJP in the Rafale deal. "The INC (Indian National Congress) stands for 'I Need Commission'... During the UPA tenure, there was a deal within every deal." "For 10 years, the IAF...was deprived of fighter aircraft...There were negotiations without conclusion...now we know the negotiation was about the commission."
Patra highlighted that the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had cleared the deal and the Supreme Court had also rejected calls for a probe in 2018 and 2019. The SC had reviewed the contents of the deal.
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera accused the BJP of trying to "cover-up" the corruption, kickbacks, and collusion in the Rafale deal inked under the current regime. The Mediapart report has revealed a "dubious nexus" between the government, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), and the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Khera said. He questioned why was there no investigation against Gupta.
Khera criticized the BJP government for scrapping anti-corruption clauses in the deal and accused the government of undermining national security. Khera accused the BJP government of jeopardizing the interests of the armed forces and causing a huge loss to the exchequer.
Further, Patra said Congress can approach the courts if it feels that scams are not being investigated. "Whenever investigations were carried out, they screamed vendetta," he said. Patra also said that he was unaware of the details of the probe against Gupta. Gupta was earlier arrested by the Enforcement Directorate for corruption and the concerned agencies must be leading their probe, he said.
Mediapart's investigative reporting into the India-French Rafale fighter jet deal revealed that manufacturer Dassault Aviation paid at least 7.5 million euros in bribes. The alleged bribe was paid between 2007 and 2012 to middleman Sushen Gupta's Mauritius company Interstellar Technologies to help secure the Rafale deal. According to Mediapart, Indian authorities have been aware of the alleged bribe since October 2018.