The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday lashed out at Congress President Rahul Gandhi after Business Today published a story alleging that his former business partner acquired defence offset contracts when the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government was in power.
According to the report, Ulrik McKnight was a 35% co-owner in Gandhi’s Britain-based firm Backops Limited. Gandhi reportedly owned a majority 65% equity in the company between 2003 and 2009 before it was dissolved. Subsidiaries associated with McKnight received defence contracts as an offset partner of the French firm Naval Group when it signed a deal with the Indian government for Scorpene submarines, the news website claimed.
“Today I read that during UPA, one of naamdar’s business partners got defence offset contracts,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at a rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Pratapgarh district, according to NDTV. “It was their government, their friend and their own defence deal, which means they had arranged it all.”
BJP President Amit Shah tweeted about the Congress president’s “Midas touch”. “When he has a say, his business partners make hay,” he added. “Doesn’t matter if India suffers on the way.”
At a press conference, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the story was that of a man who aspired to be a defence deal merchant and now aspires to be the country’s prime minister.
Jaitley claimed that Rahul Gandhi and his sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were directors in Backops Services Private Limited, which was registered in India in 2002. A firm of a similar name was registered in the United Kingdom in which Rahul Gandhi and McKnight were directors. The minister alleged that it was an “influence for cash” company, adding that McKnight was married to a Congress leader’s daughter and was part of Rahul Gandhi’s “social gang”.
Gandhi and McKnight even registered the same London address, which Jaitley claimed was owned by actor Amitabh Bachchan’s brother Ajitabh Bachchan. “The question is how will you like now to be judged,” the finance minister said. “You are judging others when there is no evidence. You distance yourself from a shady company launched by you and then your partner gets an offset contract.”
The minister questioned Rahul Gandhi’s role in his former business partner’s affairs. “Did he want to start off as a defence dealer?” Jaitley asked. “It is a very serious subject and we will want top Congress leadership to respond at the earliest.”
Congress leader Kapil Sibal rejected the allegations, saying they need to be proved, PTI reported. Gandhi, meanwhile, refuted the report and said he was ready for any investigation. “Please undertake any investigation you want, do any inquiry you want, I am ready as I know I have not done anything wrong but please also investigate Rafale,” Business Today quoted him as saying at a press conference in New Delhi.