Rafale row: Congress wants PM, top ministers to resign

New Delhi: The Congress chorus on the Rafale deal became louder on Saturday with senior leaders demanding resignations of Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with that of Finance and Defence ministers Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman respectively.

While senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge demanded Modi’s resignation, another senior leader of the party Jaipal Reddy demanded resignations of Jaitley and Sitharaman.

Speaking to ANI, Kharge said, “It is my personal demand that he (Prime Minister Modi) is not suitable for the post and therefore he should immediately resign and appoint any cabinet minister in his place. He is morally not suitable for the post now.”

His remark comes a day after former French president Fran├žois Hollande claimed that Dassault Aviation was given no choice but to partner with Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence for the Rafale fighter jet.

Citing Hollande’s claim, the Congress leader said that Hollande’s remark clarify that Prime Minister Modi had a “hand in allotting contract to a private party.” He said, “It establishes that our Prime Minister took his friend (Anil Ambani) to France to finalise this deal. We have been saying that there is a scam and the Prime Minister has helped him,” he added.

Another Congress leader Jaipal Reddy demanded the resignation of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for allegedly making a false statement after being pressurised by Prime Minister Modi.
“It is clear that the hands of Prime Minister Modi are soiled.

He made two ministers tell misleading things. Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman made a false statement though on the pressure of the Prime Minister in regard to the role of the government in the choice of Anil Ambani’s company. Both of them should resign immediately,” Reddy said.

However, Dassault Aviation, in a statement, said that Reliance Group was chosen by the company itself in compliance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 regulations and the Indian government’s ‘Make in India’ policy.

Later, the spokesperson of France’s Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs said that the French Government had no role to play in choosing partner companies in India for the purpose of offsets contracts in the Rafale deal. The spokesperson further added that the companies chosen by Dassault Aviation for the offsets had to be approved by the Indian Government.

In 2016, India under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government signed the deal with France’s Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 fighter jets at a cost of around Rs. 58,000 crore.

The Congress has been alleging discrepancies in the deal saying the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government for the procurement of 126 Rafale jets.