India's Modi faces calls for resignation over French jet deal

Paris: Former France president François Hollande on Saturday reiterated his statement on the selection of Reliance Defence as India Offset partner in Rafale deal saying that his country "did not choose Reliance in any way".

The report in Mediapart, a French language publication, quoted Hollande as saying, "It was the Indian government that proposed this service group, and Dassault which negotiated with Ambani".

"Former French president calls our PM a thief..."

However, contradicting this, defence sources on Thursday claimed disagreements between HAL and Dassault Aviation had led to the collapse of negotiations between the two in the Rafale fighter plane deal during the UPA term.

Francois Hollande was president when Modi visited France and signed an $8.7 billion deal for Dassault Aviation Rafale aircraft in 2016. Now Pakistan also supports Rahul Gandhi's baseless allegations against PM Modi. As Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, despite having a massive majority in the Lok Sabha had dwindled his support and ended up marginalised in his own government and party.

Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP's) defenders of the Rafale deal, notably Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, have repeatedly rejected Opposition charges of "crony capitalism" to favour Ambani. "The Modi government should tell why the offset contract was given to Reliance Defence", Singh told reporters at a press conference in Nagpur.

"The Indian government proposed this partner and Dassault negotiated with Ambani", Hollande said, according to the report posted on September 21 that referred to the Ambani family, who are dominant in the Indian business world.

While all 36 Rafale fighters are being manufactured in France, an offset requirement, which is a part of an all-Indian defence procurement worth more than Rs 2 trillion, requires French companies that build the Rafale - Dassault, Thales and Safran - to plough back 50 per cent of the contract value into Indian defence production.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the latest revelations.

Another Congress spokesperson, Priyanka Chaturvedi, alleged that "Rafale Minister" and "Reliance Defence's Publicity Minister" colluded to throw HAL out of the deal and hand it over to their dear friend. "Cat is out of the bag", screamed Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala as social media erupted with questions and barbs about what some described as the desperate efforts to hide the facts and mislead the nation. "We didn't have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us".

"By hiding crucial facts on Rafale deal, is Modi govt not endangering national security?" However, analysts cautioned that the intricacies of complex defense deals may not resonate with voters more concerned about inflation and the rising price of fuel. "The opposition's arguments are simply not holding the public's attention".

  • Joey Payne