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Congress President Rahul Gandhi Slams Govt, Demands JPC Probe On Modi-Ambani Deal

Gandhi accuses the govt for "lying" on Rafale agreement repeating his demand for a JPC probe and asking why the fighter jet was procured at Rs. 1,600 crore a piece instead of Rs. 520 crore concluded by UPA Government.

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Intensifying his attack on the Modi government, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has accused the prime minister of "lying" on the Rafale agreement and reiterated his demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe, saying India wants to know about the deal between him and industrialist Anil Ambani.

An aggressive Gandhi asked why the fighter jet was purchased at Rs 1,600 crore a piece, instead of Rs 520 crore finalised by the Congress-led UPA government. "Bring a joint parliamentary committee probe. The entire country wants to know what is the deal between Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani," the 48-year-old leader told reporters at a press conference.

Gandhi cited the 2015 joint statement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and then French President François Hollande, and said it is written there that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered in the same configuration as had been tested and approved by the Indian Air Force.

"The point is: It is written in the prime minister's joint statement that the aircraft will have the same configuration. The prime minister is now saying something else. The statement he gave with Mr Hollande, was it the same Narendra Modi.

"It is clearly written that the configuration is going to be of the same configuration. So the man is lying," he said. Ambani has denied the Congress charge and has accused the opposition party of making "false statements". He has written to Gandhi, explaining the deal and slapped defamation notices on a number of Congress leaders asking them to not make "false" statements.

Asked about the notices, Gandhi said, "You can slap as many defamation notices as you want, but the truth will remain the same". "Why did you buy an aircraft of Rs 520 crore at the price of Rs 1,600 crore? Who were you (Modi) trying to benefit?" Gandhi asked.

He also attacked Arun Jaitley, saying the finance minister has not said anything about JPC probe, despite writing several blogs on the controversy. He said Jaitley has asked some questions and he has the right to do. Bu, he added, but Jaitley has been given an option by him to convey to the prime minister that they are free to ask questions but before the JPC.

"Everything will be clear as to what happened in Rafale (deal)," he said. "I have no problems and the Congress party has no objections, we all will agree. The 24-hour deadline is coming to an end and Arun Jaitley is writing long blogs but is not responding to my question. I think Arun Jaitley is caught in a fix, as the permission (for a JPC) is to be given by Narendra Modi. I hope Arun Jaitley has asked from the prime minister, hope he is not fearing from asking the prime minister," Gandhi said.

He said Rafale is a "clear-cut case" - one hand it is Ambani, who has loans worth Rs 45,000 core and has never made an aircraft and set up his company only a few days before the contract was signed. On the other hand, he said, is the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which is experienced in manufacturing aircraft for the past 70 years and has no loans pending on it.

Hundreds of Youth Congress workers yesterday took to the streets to voice their protest against the deal they dubbed the "biggest scam". Rafale is a French twin-engine, multi-role fighter jet designed and built by Dassault Aviation. Rafale jets are considered one of the most potent combat jets globally.

India and France signed a deal worth euro 7.87 billion (Rs 59,000 crore approximately) in September 2016 for 36 Rafale jets. The delivery will start from September 2019. The Congress is alleging the deal is compromised as the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of more than Rs 1,670 crore as against the Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government. The party has also demanded answers from the government on why state-run HAL was not involved in the deal.