The Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal, which prompted an intense blame game between the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress during the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, is back in the news.
A recently released report by Mediapart, a French Investigative journal, has claimed that French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation used "bogus invoices" to pay at least 7.5 million euros (over Rs 64 crore) to a "middleman" to secure the Rafale deal with India. The report added that these alleged kickbacks were paid to this middleman between 2007 and 2012 when Congress-led UPA was in office in India.
As the report was made public, the BJP launched a sharp attack on Congress and accused the party of corruption. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on Tuesday said that the Indian National Congress, the initials of which are "INC", should be referred to as the "I Need Commission". He added that Sushen Mohan Gupta, the alleged middleman in the case, is already in the custody of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with another corruption case.
Responding to the BJP's offense, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "When the truth is with you in every step, then what is there to worry about? My Congress colleagues - keep fighting like this against the corrupt central government. Don't stop, don't get tired, don't be afraid. #RafaleScam."
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera reiterated the party's demand to hold a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the Rafale deal. He accused the BJP of covering up corruption in the deal inked in 2016, when BJP-led NDA was in power.
Before the BJP came to power in 2014, a 126-aircraft deal was signed between Dassault Aviation and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). It was later withdrawn by the Ministry of Defence.
The new Rafale deal was signed between the Government of India and the French government and Dassault Aviation on September 23, 2016. According to the deal, India was to receive 36 Rafale jets.
Amid corruption charges, the deal was challenged, through several petitions, in the Supreme Court. However, in its judgement, the Supreme Court bench — led by the then Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi — found no impropriety in the deal.