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Rahul alleges Modi responsible for delay in Rafale jet delivery; govt says attempt to shift focus

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 7, 2019  | 19:03 IST

(Eds: Adding details, quotes) New Delhi, Mar 7 (PTI) Congress President Rahul Gandhi Thursday alleged Prime Minister Narendra Modi was responsible for delay in delivery of Rafale fighter jets as he was holding "direct negotiations" in the deal and asked why there was no investigation against him when the government was talking of probing others for theft of documents. Repeating his allegation of a "Rs 30,000 crore scam" in the Rafale deal, Gandhi also accused the government of manipulating institutions to "save" Prime Minister Modi and said justice should be for all. The BJP hit back with union ministers Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad alleging that Gandhi was resorting to "blatant lies", had more faith in Pakistan than in Indian forces and was getting more TRP in Pakistan. Jaitley also dubbed Gandhi's attack on Modi as an attempt to shift the focus due to people's "revulsion" towards the Congress party. Gandhi's attack came a day after the government told the Supreme Court that documents related to the Rafale deal have been stolen from the Defence Ministry. The government told the court that it was probing the theft and also warned of using the Official Secrets Act against media publications for publishing reports based on those documents. The Editors Guild of India has condemned the submission before the Supreme Court, saying any attempt to use the Official Secrets Act against the media is as "reprehensible" as asking journalists to disclose their sources. BSP chief Mayawati also took a dig at the Centre's disclosure about the "stolen" documents, saying it was a "very strange and irresponsible chowkidari". "The Modi govt made a sensational disclosure in the Hon'ble Supreme Court that secret documents pertaining to Rafale fighter deal were stolen from the Defence Ministry. Very strange & irresponsible chowkidari. Is national security & interest in the safe hands? Think long & loud," she tweeted. Later in a statement, she said it was "most irresponsible, most unfortunate and shameful" that Rafale documents got stolen. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the theft was a matter of concern and described the entire matter as 'tamasha' (farce) and hinted that its fallout would be known after the Lok Sabha elections. "What would the government say on this? Who is the hidden person behind this? There must be an enquiry into it," she added. Earlier in the day, Gandhi said "gayab ho gaya" (vanished) is the new tagline that has emerged in the Modi government as he referred to 'vanishing' of the Rafale documents and alleged other things that have 'vanished' include two crore jobs for youths, right prices for farmers' produce, Rs 15 lakh in everyone's bank accounts, farmers' insurance and promise of eradicating black money after demonetisation, etc. Referring to the government investigation into theft of Rafale documents, Gandhi said everyone can be investigated but there must be a probe against Modi also as he alleged that the ministry files showed the prime minister was holding parallel negotiations in the fighter jet deal. "An interesting thing happened yesterday... The government said the media will be investigated, but there is no probe against those involved in the Rs 30,000-crore scam. The government is protecting Narendra Modi, the 'chowkidaar' (watchman), at any cost," he said at a press conference. "The prime minister delayed the Rafale deal... The parallel negotiations retarded the delivery of Rafale. The aircraft were delayed because you wanted to give Anil Ambani Rs 30,000 crore," he alleged. Gandhi said it is the government's job and the court's job to give justice and "we are just saying give justice to everybody". "If Prime Minister is not guilty, then why does not the prime minister say he is ready for a probe as he does not fear anything and will bring the truth out," he said. The government has rejected allegations by the Congress. Ambani has also rejected the allegations. "You do whatever you want to do legally, but justice should be for all. If files have been stolen, then you are accepting that the stories based on those documents are true... Why should not there be a criminal investigation? When a probe can be ordered against anyone who opposes the prime minister, then why not against Narendra Modi?" he asked. The Congress chief alleged the files showed Modi was doing parallel negotiations on Rafale deal. "Narendra Modi has done bypass surgery. You act against all, but also act against the one whose name appears in the Rafale scam," he said. He alleged there was a "blatant case of corruption" against Modi and that has come out in media reports quoting the defence ministry file on Rafale. Hitting back at Modi for calling the Congress a "poster boy" of Pakistan for questioning the air strike on terror camps in Balakot, Gandhi said, "It is he who is Pakistan's poster boy, not us". "Prime Minister got ISI to investigate Pathankot. Prime Minister went to Nawaz Sharif's (family) wedding and we are the poster boys. He is poster boy of Pakistan hugging Mr Nawaz Sharif, calling Mr Nawaz Sharif to his swearing-in ceremony doing drama," he said. The Congress chief also lauded the Hindu newspaper for publishing the Rafale article and said, "You are being punished because you are brave, that is why you are punished and I am very proud that you have the guts to stand against Mr Narendra Modi."PTI SKC SKC BJ BJ

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