New Delhi: Giving a new twist, the BJP on Monday sought to drag Rahul Gandhi’s brother-in-law and businessman Robert Vadra into the Rafale controversy by alleging that the previous UPA government had cancelled the fighter jets deal with France as Vadra’s company was not accepted as the “middleman”. “You must have heard the name of Sanjay Bhandari, who works as middleman in defence deals. His name had earlier appeared in how he arranged air tickets for Vadra and how he got his home interior work done,” Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra singh Shekhawat told a press conference at the party headquarters.
Earlier, it was said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was to meet the media on the issue. “He (Bhandari) is known to Vadra and he was seen with him in Dubai Defence Expo together,” he said. Targeting the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by Congress, the BJP leader said, “Vadra, the Gandhi family and the then government wanted, that the Rafale deal with Dassault Aviation should have been done under Vadra’s company Offset India Solutions, which was formed in 2008.”
Claiming that Vadra’s company acts as middle man in defence deals, the BJP leader, said “They (Vadra and Bhandari) represent themselves as middlemen at many defence expos but they have not got a big breakthrough yet. The then government wanted that the French firm should accept it (Vadra’s company) as the middleman. But since it did not materialise, the deal with Dassault was cancelled.” He said that when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked why Rafale deal was cancelled by the then government, the Congress has remained silent on it. “So I am answering it today that it was cancelled for the commercial interest of Vadra,” he said.
He also alleged that the UPA government wanted to use the company of Bhandari and Vadra as the middlemen and when this could not materialise they are conspiring to get the present government-to-government deal of 36 fighter jets to be cancelled to take revenge. He also alleged that the Congress President was demanding the joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe on the issue to derail the defence preparedness of the country. “They are demanding JPC. If a JPC investigates the issue, then the things which have been kept secret for national security and national interest would reveal our defence preparedness to other enemy countries and the country can be strategically weakened,” he said.
He also said the Congress was trying to sour the relations between India and France by misleading everyone on the Rafale issue. “They are preparing to strategically weaken the country. How Rahul Gandhi came to know on August 30 that something was going to explode in France over the Rafale issue when he had claimed that a bomb was going to explode in France on the issue? “How did he (Rahul Gandhi) earlier refer to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement in Parliament after which he (Macron) had to clarify. Then on September 21, former French President Francois Hollande gives the statement over Rafale.
“This conspiracy we need to understand. Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in France then issued a statement saying that the remarks of Hollande rendered no service to France. Shekhawat also refuted the claims of Hollande. Even Hollande is facing a probe in his country. And after coming under fire from the government then he corrects his stand and gives a different statement, he said.