On Monday, netizens appeared to be harking back to a simpler (pandemic-free) time as the Rafale deal once again became a top trending topic on Twitter. Rahul Gandhi, many exulted, had been "right all along". They cited a recent report by a French anti-corruption agency, contending that there had been nefarious activities involved in the deal.
For those living under a rock, the Rafale deal had made headlines on a frequent basis during the last decade, as many including Congress leader Rahul Gandhi cried foul, alleging a scam. While the Supreme Court had upheld the deal in December 2018, contending that there was no irregularities or corruption to be found, allegations of price escalation and favouritism had persisted. A year later, in November 2019, the apex court had upheld its judgement, dismissing all review petitions.
Now, Gandhi's many tweets alleging foul play has been revived and is being shared widely as many take the chance to say "I told you so" on his behalf. In the first of a three-part report, the French publication Mediapart said that the country's anti-corruption agency Agence Française Anticorruption (AFA) had discovered that the company made an additional payment alongside the deal during a routine audit of Dassault.
"Mediapart can reveal that, alongside this controversial deal, Dassault also agreed to pay one million euros to a middleman who is now under investigation in India in connection with another defence deal," the report adds. The publication says that while Dassault had said the money was used to pay for the manufacture of 50 large replica models of Rafale jets, it could not provide any proof to the AFA that the models were actually created. The report also brings up Sushen Gupta, who was arrested by the ED in March 2019.
While a few BJP leaders hit back at the report and those alleging foul play, Congress leaders and supporters for the most part seems to be busy cheering for Gandhi. "Dassault paid 1 million euros to an Indian middleman as ‘gift’ in 2017 after the Rafale deal was finalised, says report. Rahul Gandhi has been saying all along that the Rafale deal was a massive scam. Finally, he has been vindicated," tweeted Congress spokesperson Dr. Shama Mohamed.
"Rahul Gandhi was correct when he had raised the issue of Rafale Scam. Even the Anti Corruption Agency of France agrees with him. The Million Dollar question, who is the middle man who was paid a Million Euro as gift for the deal?" wrote the Congress' Goa handle.
Many others brought out his tweets from 2018 and 2019, to hit out at the Narendra Modi led-government.
While the Congress and its members and supporters are busy applauding Gandhi's foresight, leaders of other Opposition parties have lost no time in demanding an investigation. Others still have taken to calling for the relevant authorities to release the name of the middleman who was allegedly bribed.
"Dear GoI, CBI can investigate everything under the sun but definitely not Rafale deal. As some more facts emerge in an ongoing French investigation it has been revealed that Dassault agreed to pay €1 million to a middleman. Who is the middleman and why should we not know the truth?" queried Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi.
"So Rafale scam was a truth says French news agency. Will it go forward or be buried . France should announce the names of scamstars (sic)," tweeted Maharashtra Minister Jitendra Awhad.
"Everyone seems to be well-fed despite na khaunga na khaane dunga," remarked Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi.