New Delhi: The Congress on Wednesday sharpened its attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the Rafale fighter jets deal, claiming that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar possessed all files related to the controversial pact, as claimed in the audio clip released by the party. Speaking to reporters outside the Parliament, Congress party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala played out the clip, claiming that Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane was speaking in it to another person about the deal.
In the audio, Rane, as claimed by Congress, divulged that Parrikar, who was the Defence Minister when the Rafale deal was signed in 2016 between India and France, had “all files related to the deal in his bedroom.” After playing the minute-long audio, Surjewala said, “Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has all the files relating to the Rafale jet deal. The fashion in which every procedure was bypassed, it is all recorded in the files. Those files are with Parrikar. Why are those files being hidden?” Continuing his tirade against the BJP, Surjewala asserted that Rane’s revelations revealed the truth of the alleged scam in the Rafale deal.
“It is clear from the conversation that Goa Minister Vishwajit Rane has himself said that Parrikar has all the files of Rafale deal and that no one can do anything with them,” the Congress spokesperson alleged. Taking a jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his continued silence on the controversial deal, Surjewala alleged: “Now it is clear that the ‘chowkidaar is chor’ (the watchman is a thief). The Prime Minister should answer the nation about the ‘secret’ files of Rafale deal lying inside Parrikar’s bedroom and residence. What is the issue in making all these document public?” He reiterated that a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) is the only way forward to expose the facts of the alleged Rafale scam.
Later, Rane hit back at the Congress, asserting that the audio tape was doctored and Parrikar made no mention about Rafale deal and its documents. “The audio tape is doctored. Congress has stooped to such a low level to doctor a tape to create miscommunication between cabinet and Chief Minister. Parrikar has never made any reference to Rafale or any documents. I have asked him for a criminal investigation into the matter,” Rane told reporters in Panaji.
The Goa Health Minister also shot off a letter to Parrikar demanding an immediate inquiry into the matter, adding that “such mischievous elements need to be brought to the books.” “This is with reference to an audio that has become viral regarding the Rafale row. At no point of time there has been a discussion between me and any other individual. There should be a thorough inquiry in this matter and I would like to once again inform the Chief Minister that there is someone playing mischief and there should be a thorough inquiry in this matter and such mischievous elements need to be brought to the books,” Rane wrote in the letter.
Earlier in the day, former union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, along with advocate Prashant Bhushan moved to the Supreme Court for review of Rafale judgement. Bhushan is seeking review of December 14 judgement on Rafale.
The Supreme Court on that day had dismissed all petitions seeking court-monitored probe into the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, saying that there was no occasion to doubt the decision-making process in the deal. The top court said it was not its job to go into the issue of pricing. The bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, said that there is no need to conduct an investigation into details of Rafale pricing. The Rafale jet deal controversy has been on the boil over the last few months. The Congress and other opposition parties have been alleging irregularities in the high-profile deal.