Again, Rahul Gandhi Highlights Corruption in PM Modi’s Rafale Deal

Congress leaders protesting against PM Narendra Modi and the Rafale deal on February 13, 2019 (file photo). Photo: Congress
Congress leaders protesting against PM Narendra Modi and the Rafale deal on February 13, 2019 (file photo). Photo: Congress

It is alleged in the complaint that Modi – who is a public servant – misused his position as PM of India to give undue benefit in Rafale deal to his close associate Anil Ambani.

By Rakesh Raman

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi – who had made the corruption in the purchase of Rafale aircraft a major issue during the 2019 Lok Sabha election campaign – has once again questioned the government about the dubious deal.

As the first 5 Rafale aircraft arrived from Dassault Aviation facility in France at Air Force Station, Ambala on Wednesday (July 29), the Congress leader asked 3 questions from the government.

In his tweet Wednesday Rahul Gandhi asked why the government is paying Rs. 1,670 crore instead of Rs. 526 crore for each aircraft and why only 36 aircraft were bought instead of 126.

He also questioned the government’s decision to give Rs. 30,000-crore Rafale contract to Anil Ambani, who is said to be a close capitalist friend of Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi. “Why was bankrupt Anil given a ₹30,000 Crores contract instead of HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited)?” he tweeted.

SUPREME COURT DECISION

In November 2019, the Supreme Court of India had put a final break on the controversial Rafale corruption case in which PM Modi was a prime accused.

A bench comprising outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices S.K. Kaul, and K.M. Joseph dismissed the review petitions seeking reassessment of the judgment that had refused an investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the Rafale fighter jet deal with French firm Dassault Aviation.

A petition filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh was also seeking a court-monitored investigation into the Rafale deal.

Another petition filed by former Indian ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, and lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan had demanded a review of its findings related to the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

However, the top court observed that the petitions lacked merits and therefore there is no need for the CBI to register a first information report (FIR) and start the inquiry.

It is important to mention here that in May last year a Supreme Court committee had exonerated Chief Justice Gogoi who was blamed of sexual harassment by a former woman employee of the court.

Most observers believe that the so-called inquiry was a biased exercise to protect the Chief Justice and the committee did not follow the law to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.

Gogoi’s term as Chief Justice ended on November 17, 2019, and the Modi government rewarded him with a Rajya Sabha membership in March 2020.

RAFALE CASE COMPLAINT

The petitioners in Rafale case – led by lawyer Prashant Bhushan – had filed a complaint with CBI on October 4, 2018, urging the agency to register an FIR against PM Modi and former defence minister Manohar Parrikar.

The complaint alleged that the accused have committed a range of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act over their April 2015 decision to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft from Dassault Aviation.

The complaint was handed over to Alok Verma, director of the CBI, who was later removed from his position surreptitiously by the Modi government with the help of Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which controls CBI.

In a related development, K.V. Chowdary – who had retired as the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) which is India’s top anti-corruption organization – was hired as additional director on the board of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) led by Mukesh Ambani, who is a close capitalist friend of Modi. As the CVC of India, Chowdary had intervened to get all investigations against Modi dropped.

It is alleged in the complaint that Modi – who is a public servant – misused his position as PM of India to give undue benefit in Rafale deal to his close associate Anil Ambani who is the Chairman of Reliance ADA group of companies and brother of Mukesh Ambani. When the complaint reached India’s top investigating agency CBI, Chowdary conspired to get CBI director Alok Verma removed from his position.

MURKY COURT JUDGMENT

The New York Times (NYT), the world’s top newspaper based in the U.S., said in its article that Modi’s opaque arms deal has raised some serious questions. The article headlined “With ‘Fishy’ Jet Deal, India’s Opposition Finally Lands a Blow on Modi” appeared in NYT.

It raised questions such as why Modi renegotiated a deal for 36 fighter jets and why a company run by a wealthy family (Ambani family) was chosen to participate in the deal while it had no experience of building jets. The NYT article also asked why the costs of the planes seemed to jump so much and why Modi is not sharing more details on the Rafale deal.

Strangely, however, the Supreme Court did not find the need to explore all these troubling questions and gave a murky judgment in favor of Modi government.

The petitioners had alleged that the 2018 judgment “relied upon patently incorrect claims made by the government in an unsigned note given in a sealed cover” to the Supreme Court. In order to see transparency in the decision-making process of the court, they had requested for an oral hearing of the petition in an open court.

But instead of dealing with the case objectively, the Supreme Court judges – it appears – merely used their whims to dismiss it because the case targeted PM Modi. The less said about the Indian courts, the better.

In order to highlight corruption in Rafale deal, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi used ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (PM Narendra Modi as watchman is a thief) slogan extensively before the 2019 Lok Sabha election to discredit Modi for his alleged involvement in the deal.

Rahul Gandhi often called Modi a “thief” for stealing Rs. 30,000 crore (~ US$ 4 billion) in the Rafale deal which was handled by Modi in a shady manner.

But after the court judgment, Rahul Gandhi and the petitioners had to willy-nilly accept that there was no corruption in the Rafale deal and Chowkidar Modi is not a chor.

By Rakesh Raman, who is a national award-winning journalist and social activist. He is the founder of a humanitarian organization RMN Foundation which is working in diverse areas to help the disadvantaged and distressed people in the society. He also creates and publishes a number of digital publications and research reports on different subjects. These publications include the “Covid Health Bulletin” that covers global coronavirus news and views.

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