BJP leaders feel Rafale guilt: Rahul on Rajnath’s France visit


MUMBAI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday questioned the ‘purpose’ of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s “unprecedented” visit to France to receive the first Rafale fighter jet, saying BJP leaders are bearing “guilt” in their minds for making “mistakes” in the controversial deal.

Addressing a poll rally in Chandivali assembly constituency in Mumbai, his second in the day, Gandhi also raised the alleged fraud in the Punjab and Maharashtra Cooperative (PMC) Bank which has led to restrictions on withdrawal of money by depositors. “It seems the Rafale deal is still hurting the BJP.

(If not) Why Rajnath Singh went to France to receive the first fighter jet?” he asked the audience. In Chandivali, sitting Congress MLA Naseem Khan is seeking another term against Shiv Sena’s Dileep Lande.

In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi had alleged “irregularities” in the Rafale deal under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “There has been some guilt in the minds of BJP leaders that they have made a mistake in the Rafale deal. Even Defence officials had claimed that PM Narendra Modi is interfering in the Rafale fighter jet deal. No one can run away from this truth, neither Narendra Modi nor Amit Shah or the BJP. The truth will catch them one day,” he said.

He said everyone knows that the Rafale deal was controversial and “some kickbacks were given”.

“The deal still hurts (the BJP) and hence our defence minister went to France to collect the first fighter plane. So far, no one ever had gone to the supplying nation to collect the fighter plane like this,” Gandhi said. The defence minister on Tuesday received the first Rafale fighter jet from France on behalf of the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Singh, who attended the handover ceremony of the first Rafale fighter jet at aircraft maker Dassault Aviation facility in Merignac, southwestern France, called it as “historic” moment and said that it would boost strategic ties between India and France.

Gandhi also accused the BJP of “dividing and looting” the country like the British did in pre-Independence period. The “BJP is dividing and looting India like the British did in pre-Independence period. Wherever BJP leaders go these days they cause division and unrest,” he alleged.

Accusing the BJP of “favouring” certain corporate houses, Gandhi said it has become apparent that they also are looting the country. “There was a time when the US president was saying that Indian economy can compete with the US economy. Nobody now says it,” Gandhi said.

He also hit back at Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her statement that Goods and Services Tax (GST) cannot be altered as it is an Act passed by Parliament. “If you cannot change the GST in the name of it being an Act, do not forget that MNREGA was also an act which you had changed. The Food Security Act was also altered and you intend to change the Adivasi Act (to free their land-holdings). This is not good,” he said.

Gandhi also sought to highlight the “connection” between some directors of the fraud-hit PMC Bank and the ruling BJP.

“If Narendra Modi, Shah and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis are not talking about the core issues of Maharashtra, at least they should talk about the PMC bank. They should talk about the board of directors and their alleged links with BJP leaders,” Gandhi said.

Some depositors of the PMC Bank recently met Sitharaman when she visited the Mumbai BJP office and demanded immediate redressal of their issue. The finance minister had assured them to take up the issue with the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Gandhi later addressed a rally at Dharavi, one of the biggest slum sprawls in Asia, also in Mumbai.

He stopped his speech for some time when the ‘azaan’, a call for Muslim prayer, was heard in the background. Earlier in the day, he addressed a rally at Ausa in Latur district of Marathwada region. PTI

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