The Shiv Sena on Sunday said the Rafale defence deal was “the father of the Bofors scandal” and predicted that it will not die soon, PTI reported.
“Those who had accused Sonia Gandhi’s relatives of getting benefits of Rs 65 crore are in power today,” Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut wrote in the party’s mouthpiece, Saamana. “They are accused of pocketing Rs 700 crore in the Rafale jet deal.” The Shiv Sena is an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra.
The Bofors scandal had caused a massive political maelstrom and led to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989 as questions were raised about alleged payment of kickbacks in the procurement of Howitzer artillery guns. The Indian government had signed a $1.4-billion defence deal with Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors for 410 field howitzer guns and a supply contract in March 1986.
In 2016, India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets, for Rs 58,000 crore. The Congress and several other leaders have been accusing the Narendra Modi government of getting an overpriced deal.
On September 21, French media outlet Mediapart quoted former French President Francois Hollande as saying that the Indian government proposed the name of Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence for an offset contract with Dassault Aviation, which manufactures the fighter jets. India’s Ministry of Defence, the French government and Dassault Aviation have contradicted his claim.
Taking a potshot at the Bharatiya Janata Party, Raut asked if Hollande should now be called a Rahul Gandhi supporter or an “anti-national”.
“The question is not that Anil Ambani was given the contract for the fighter jets, but, as against the price of Rs 527 crore for each jet, the deal was done at Rs 1,570 crore during Modi government’s tenure,” Raut said. “This means middlemen got a commission of about Rs 1,000 crore per jet.”
He dismissed the BJP’s allegations that Gandhi’s criticism of the deal was like “speaking in the words of Pakistan” as laughable. “The same allegations were levelled against the Congress during the Bofors deal. Was it then not helping Pakistan?” he said. “Those in power term Bofors a scandal... However, they are not ready to believe Rafale is also a scam.”
Raut added that Gandhi was now getting importance in politics because he was the only politician speaking against the Rafale deal.