Oppn leaders slam 'parallel negotiations' by PMO; Kejriwal demands 'independent CBI raid'
New Delhi, Feb 8 : Attacking the Prime Minister's Office for alleged "parallel negotiations" in the Rafale deal, opposition leaders on Friday asked the government to come clean on objections raised by the defence ministry at that time with AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal going to the extent of demanding an "independent" CBI raid to seize all related files and arrest everyone involved.
Latching on to an article in The Hindu newspaper, which claimed that the Defence Ministry had raised strong objections to "parallel discussions" conducted by the PMO during negotiations for the Rs 59,000-crore fighter jet deal between India and France, the opposition leaders also raised questions on the role of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, however, dismissed the media report as "flogging a dead horse" and accused the opposition of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests. She also said that periodical enquiries by the PMO cannot be construed as interference.
Reacting to the report, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, "I'd like to see how this one is explained by the talking heads aligned to the BJP. @PMOIndia 'weakened the negotiating position of the Ministry of Defence & the Indian Negotiating Team' as per this note in a MOD file that went up the the Defence Minister."
Abdullah's National Conference was an ally of NDA when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister, but shifted to UPA-II in 2009.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury alleged that Prime Minister Modi has consistently undermined the Air Force and the Defence Ministry to benefit his "cronies" in the Rafale deal.
"Modi has consistently undermined the Air Force & Defence Ministry in the Rafale deal for corruption, to benefit his cronies. His actions have hurt the public exchequer & damaged national security. These facts have been hidden from Supreme Court where a review petition is pending," Yechury tweeted.
"The PM must take responsibility for the loss to the exchequer, violation of procedure to get far fewer fighter jets than what Air Force wanted. All just to help cronies," the Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader said.
AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal demanded CBI raid on PMO and arrests in connection with Rafale fighter jet deal.
"In the light of today's expose on Rafale, "independent" CBI should raid PMO, seize all the files related to Rafale and make arrests just like they raided my office and residence and Kolkatta police commissioner," he tweeted.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi also used the media report, quoting notes in an MoD file, to fire a fresh salvo at the prime minister and alleged the PMO was directly involved in negotiations with the French side on the Rafale deal and that it was guilty in the alleged scam.
"I want to speak to every member of the armed forces of this nation... Here, it is absolutely clear that the prime minister has stolen Rs 30,000 crore of your money, bypassed a process, and given it to his friend Mr Anil Ambani," Gandhi said at a press conference calling the deal as an "open and shut case".
The BJP, howe3ver, described Gandhi's allegations against Modi as "yet another lie from his lie-manufacturing factory" and accused the Congress president of working at the behest of foreign forces for cancellation of the fighter aircraft deal.
Gandhi and his party have often alleged that Ambani's Reliance Group got benefits from the Rafale deal by being made an offset partner. However, the business house has these denied allegations.
Another senior Congress leader Anand Sharma demanded that a JPC be formed to look into the deal and it should submit its report before the general elections, which are expected to take place in April-May.
"Not one aircraft has come to India and this is for the first time in history that the process of defence acquisition has been bypassed and a parallel negotiation has taken place," he alleged.
DMK President MK Stalin told reporters that Modi's actions in the deal was akin to contempt of court.
"PM Modi has come under the Supreme Court's contempt. In its sealed envelope to SC, centre never mentioned PMO's negotiations. Never ever in independent India, a Prime Minister was caught in such serious allegations," he alleged.
In a cryptic tweet, Samajwadi Party Chief Akhilesh Yadav brought all the concerns of the opposition parties -- from farmer deaths to the Rafale deal.
"Let us vow that we will #NeverAgain let people die waiting in line to withdraw money from a bank, fall for the 15 lakh rupee lie, allow farmers to kill themselves, let national security enrich the famous few, let people be killed for their beliefs, let two and half men rule us."