Operation cover-up by Modi govt in Rafale deal once again exposed: Congress

New Delhi: The Congress on Tuesday accused the Modi government of conducting an operation to “cover-up” corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and asked why it did not initiate investigation into the role of a middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera also alleged that the BJP government has sacrificed national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.

French investigative journal Mediapart in fresh revelations in a report has exposed how middleman Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence, he said.

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The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Khera claimed, citing the Mediapart report.

“The ‘operation cover-up’ by the Modi government to bury the melting pot of corruption, kickbacks and collusion in Rafale deal is once again exposed,” he said.

“The BJP government undermined national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores to our exchequer,” Khera said at a press confrence.

Each revelation in the “murky affair in the last five years, every single allegation and each piece of the puzzle leads right up to the topmost leadership of the country- the prime minister’s doorstep”, he said.

Khera alleged that the latest revelations in “operation cover-up” reveal the “dubious nexus” between the Modi government-CBI-ED to bury the corruption in the Rafale deal.

The Congress leader asked whether it is not correct that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recovered “secret defence ministry documents” from the middlemen in a raid conducted on March 26, 2019.

The documents, he claimed, included the ‘benchmark price document’ of August 10, 2015, the ‘record of discussions’ by the INT of the defence ministry, the ‘excel sheet of calculations made by defence ministry’ and ‘Eurofighter’s counter offer of 20 per cent discount to government of India’.

Khera alleged that a note of June 24, 2014, sent to Dassault by Gupta, offering a meeting with “the political high command” was also recovered and asked if such a meeting had taken place with the “high command” in the Modi government.

“This is nothing short of endangering national security, sedition and a gross violation of Official’s Secrets Act,” he alleged.

“Why did the ED not pursue these evidences further to investigate the scam? Why did the Modi government then not take action against Dassault, the political executive or the defence ministry officers who leaked the documents? Which ‘Chowkidar’ sold India’s national secrets,” Khera asked.

The Congress leader also alleged that Prime Minister Modi abrogated the anti-corruption clauses — “no bribery, no gift, no influence, no commission, no middlemen”.

These are a mandatory clauses in defence contracts according to the defence procurement procedure and were part of the tender by the UPA for purchase of 126 fighter aircraft, he said.

“Were the anti-corruption clauses deleted to escape responsibility from bribery and commission to be paid in the Rafale deal? Why was the deletion of anti-corruption clauses approved by the prime minister and the Modi government in September 2016, despite the defence ministry’s insistence upon including it in the inter-governmental agreement in July 2015,” Khera asked.

“Is this the reason that CBI-ED refused to probe the corruption in Rafale deal since October 11, 2018, till date,” he asked.

Khera claimed that on October 4, 2018, two former BJP Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and a senior lawyer submitted a complaint to director of the CBI citing massive corruption in the Rafale deal.

On October 11, 2018, the government of Mauritius, through its attorney general, supplied documents to the CBI regarding alleged payment of commission connected to the Rafale deal, he said.

But, on October 23, 2018, CBI Director Alok Verma was removed in a “midnight coup” after the CBI headquarters was raided by the Delhi Police, Khera said, alleging that this was part of a concerted conspiracy to bury the Rafale ghost through the CBI.

“Why has the Modi government and the CBI not acted upon the evidence of commission and corruption for the last 36 months? Why has it been buried ? Why did the Modi government remove the CBI Chief in a midnight coup,” the Congress leader asked.

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