'Chor Ki dadhi...': Rahul Gandhi takes a jibe at PM Modi over Rafale deal

A recent report in Mediapart reveals Dassault provided a 'remarkably generous financial gift to its local industrial partner Reliance Group'. France has ordered judicial probe into the matter

'Chor Ki dadhi...': Rahul Gandhi takes a jibe at PM Modi over Rafale deal

NH Web Desk

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale fighter jets controversy. He posted an image with the caption 'Chor ki dadhi…' (thief's beard), drawing on Hindi proverb "Chor ki dadhi me tinka".

He also posted a poll on Twitter asking as to why Modi government was not ready for a JPC probe into the Rafale matter. He gave four options:

1. Guilt conscience 2. Friends have to saved 3. JPC doesn't need a Rajya Sabha seat 4. All of the above.

Most of the participants, 63.5%, opted for fourth option, that is, all of the above.

On Saturday, after media reports of France opening a magisterial probe into the 36 Rafale jets deal with India came out, the former Congress President had taunted with “Chor ki dadhi…” on Twitter, with hashtag RafaleScam below but without naming anyone.

The Congress party also demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the deal.

The Rafale deal for 36 fighter jets worth 7.8 billion Euros was signed in 2016 between the Indian government and French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

A recent report in French media outlet Mediapart reveals that Dassault Aviation, the manufacturer of Rafale fighter jets, provided a “remarkably generous financial gift to its local industrial partner Reliance Group, owned by Anil Ambani”.

According to the report, the “highly sensitive probe” into the 2016 inter-governmental deal was formally opened on June 14 following a decision by the financial crimes branch of the French public prosecution services, the PNF.

New revelations:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on April 10, 2015 the deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighters at a price around three times of the earlier price negotiated by UPA for 126 jets.

Could anybody outside India’s defence brass was supposed to know the contours of the sensitive defence deal negotiated by the Modi government weeks, if not months, in advance? Well, one of India’s corporate houses, a significant part both of the deal and the controversy around it, knew it!

One may find it shocking that the first MoU between Dassault and Anil Ambani’s company was actually signed on March 26, 2015 – a fortnight before the public announcement of the deal by the PM, Mediapart has reported in a notable new revelation.

“Documents seen by Mediapart show that Dassault and Reliance had in fact signed their first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) – a document setting out broad outlines of an agreement – on March 26th 2015. That was 15 days before Modi’s announcement of the turnaround, and the exclusion of HAL, and begs the question as to whether the two companies had been informed of it in advance,” the Mediapart report said.

The MoU allowed for a “possible joint venture” between the two companies to include “program and project management”, “research and development”, “design and engineering”, “assembly and manufacture”, “maintenance” et “training”.

On November 28, 2016, Dassault and Reliance signed a shareholders’ agreement to chart out their relationship in the future joint venture company. Mediapart points out that the financial details of this were so sensitive that they did not figure in the contract, and instead were contained in a confidential “side letter” which was signed that same day.

“It is that ‘side letter’ that contained the funds gifted to Reliance by Dassault…As almost equal partners, the two companies each pledged to provide up to 10 million Euros for the capital of the joint venture. Up to that point, everything followed business logic. But Dassault also promised a ‘share premium’, a supplementary sum on the price of the shares, of a maximum 43 million Euros, plus loans detailed as ‘not exceeding 106 million Euros’,” the Mediapart report noted.

“This meant that Dassault had pledged to provide up to 159 million Euros out of the total investment of 169 million Euros, representing 94% of that total. Meanwhile, the contribution by Reliance, it was noted, ‘shall not exceed 10 million euros, all in equity’,” it added.

The opposition Congress party in India has consistently accused the Modi government of signing the contract with France at a much higher price than negotiated during the UPA rule. It also accused PM Modi of indulging in crony capitalism by pulling strings to make Dassault award offset contract to Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Defence Dassault Aviation that had no previous experience in defence manufacturing.

In response to Rahul Gandhi's social media post, BJP IT department in-charge Amit Malviya said on Twitter, "Rahul Gandhi, after having heaped choicest abuses in the run up to 2019, has now stooped down to this level. People across India have rejected him but he is most welcome to fight 2024 elections on this issue!"

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Published: 04 Jul 2021, 5:05 PM