Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said former French President Francois Hollande’s clarifications should put an end to the controversy surrounding the Rafale deal, reported PTI. Although Hollande reiterated to AFP that his government did not choose Reliance Defence for the deal, he added that he was not aware if India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault Aviation to work together.
“After clarifications from Hollande, there is no room for any doubt about the deal,” said Singh. “The Congress is making it an issue to gain political mileage in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.”
Singh was speaking to reporters in Lucknow after a meeting of the Central Zonal Council, which comprises Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand.
On September 21, French news organisation Mediapart quoted Hollande as saying that his government “did not have a say” in choosing Anil Ambani’s company Reliance Defence for the deal. The former French president also claimed the Indian government had proposed Reliance Defence’s name for the pact, which was agreed upon when he was president.
India’s Ministry of Defence has denied that it proposed Reliance Defence’s name while France said it is “in no manner” involved in choosing French companies’ industrial partners for projects in India. In a separate statement, Dassault Aviation said it had chosen Reliance Defence for the project.
A day after the controversy, Singh was the first Bharatiya Janata Party leader to comment on Hollande’s statement. He remarked that the allegations being levelled by the Opposition were baseless. He had also advised Congress President Rahul Gandhi not to make allegations against the government without evidence.
On Sunday, the French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said Hollande’s claims “render no service to France”, reported The Indian Express. However, Lemoyne did not contradict Hollande’s comments.