Slugfest On Rafale Has Different People Sing Different Tunes; Cong Mounts Pressure On PM To Come Clean

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New Delhi: As former French president Francois Hollande's claim on the Rafale deal fuelled a massive political row, the Government on Saturday asserted that it did not have any role in the selection of Reliance Defence as a partner for Dassault while France said that it was in "no manner" involved in the choice of any Indian industrial associate for the contract. Dassault Aviation said the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) to fulfill offset obligations of the deal was its own.

Hollande's comments gave fresh ammo to the Opposition, with Rahul Gandhi making one of his sharpest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue, alleging that the remarks showed there was "clear-cut corruption" in the deal and that he must clarify whether the former French president was "lying". "Now, what the ex-president of France is saying is that the prime minister of India is a 'thief'. That is what this (Hollande's) statement is saying," Gandhi told a Press conference while asking Modi to come clean.

Hitting back at the Congress, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad condemned as "shameful and irresponsible" Gandhi's remarks against Modi, saying that no president of any party has ever used such language against a prime minister. Prasad also rejected Hollande's claim on the Rafale deal, saying it does not know under what compulsion he said so. The sensational comments quoted to Hollande gave a new twist to the controversy as the Indian government has been maintaining it was not officially aware whom Dassault Aviation has selected as its Indian partner to fulfil offset obligations of the deal.

The Opposition has been alleging that government was favouring RDL. Under India's offset policy, foreign defence entities are mandated to spend at least 30 per cent of the total contract value in India through procurement of components or setting up of research and development facilities. "The government has stated earlier and again reiterates that it had no role in the selection of Reliance Defence as the Offset partner," the defence ministry said in a statement.

It also said that the reported statement of Hollande needs to be seen in "its full context where the French media has raised issues of conflict of interest involving persons close to the former President." It is seen as a reference to a recent media report linking the Rafale deal with a film by Hollande's partner Julie Gayet.

The report had said Ambani's Reliance Entertainment had signed an agreement with Gayet to produce a film before the Rafale deal was sealed.

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