Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday claimed that the Rafale jet deal between India and France was an “open and shut case” and a “[businessman] Anil Ambani-Prime Minister Narendra Modi partnership”.
“The Dassault Chief Executive Officer [Eric Trappier] had said the reason Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd wasn’t given the contract was because Ambani had land,” he said, according to ANI. “Now it turns out that the land that Anil Ambani had was purchased by money given by Dassault.”
“Dassault invested Rs 284 crore in Ambani’s company [Reliance Airport Developers Ltd],” Gandhi said. “Ambani bought land with the same money. This is clear that the Dassault CEO is lying. Why did they invest Rs 284 crore in a loss-making company?”
Gandhi was referring to a story published by The Wire on Thursday, which claimed that soon after Dassault formed a joint venture with Reliance Defence, it also also invested around €40 million in another subsidiary, Reliance Airport Developers Limited. This investment helped Reliance Infrastructure make a profit of Rs 284 crore, the report claimed.
Trappier had also said on October 26 that Dassault Aviation had been in talks with Ambani’s Reliance Group as a potential partner much before Narendra Modi became the Indian prime minister.
Gandhi said Modi “will not survive” an inquiry into the deal. “One, because of corruption. Two, because it is very clear who the decision-maker was,” Gandhi alleged. “It was Narendra Modi, and it was a deal done by Narendra Modi to give Anil Ambani Rs 30,000 crore.”
The Reliance Group said Ambani was “continuously being dragged into a political battle in view of the impending State and General elections in the country”. The company, in a statement, accused the party of resorting to “blatant lies and distorted facts”.
The company said Dassault’s investment in Reliance Airport Developers had no link with the Rafale deal, and was an “independent arms-length transaction based on fair market valuation of the land and other assets of the company”. The company refuted the allegation by the Congress that the funds invested in Reliance Airport Developers were used to purchase land.
India and France signed a deal in 2016 for the delivery of 36 Rafale aircraft to the Indian Air Force. On July 20, Congress President Rahul Gandhi criticised Prime Minister Narenda Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in the Lok Sabha, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal with France.
Gandhi alleged that not only is India overpaying for the Rafale aircraft, it is doing so to benefit businessman Anil Ambani. Gandhi’s allegations were bolstered by former French President Francois Hollande’s claim in September that the Indian government had proposed the name of Ambani’s Reliance Defence for the offset obligations in the Rafale deal.
Last month, lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party leader Yashwant Sinha and BJP leader Arun Shourie moved the Supreme Court seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the deal. However, on October 30, the court directed the Centre to submit more details – including pricing and strategic details – related to the agreement in a sealed envelope within 10 days.