Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday once again invoked the Rafale deal to attack the ruling BJP at a campaign rally in Maharashtra ahead of the assembly elections on October 21.
Addressing a poll rally in Chandivali assembly constituency in Mumbai, Rahul Gandhi said that the BJP was feeling “guilty” of “making some mistakes” in the deal.
“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 deal still hurts (the BJP) and hence our Defence Minister went to France to collect the first fighter plane. No one ever had gone to the supplying nation to collect the fighter plane like this,” Gandhi was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
This was his second among a series of rallies in the state, making his first public appearance since he stepped down as the Congress president over the party’s embarrassing debacle in the Lok Sabha polls.
In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Gandhi had alleged “irregularities” in the Rafale deal under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He had used the ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ slogan throughout his campaign for the Lok Sabha elections to target PM Modi over the Rafale deal, However, the slogan did not succeed and in fact, backfired, leaving Congress not even winning enough seats to form the opposition.
Gandhi’s comments on Rafale come days after Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh himself went to France on October 8 to receive the first of the fighter jets.
India had in 2016 signed an agreement with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, costing approximately Rs 58,000-crore (about USD 8 billion), in a fly-away condition for Indian Air Force equipment upgrade.
The Congress has been accusing massive irregularities in the deal, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government when it was negotiating procurement of 126 Rafale jets.
Gandhi in his Sunday speech further accused the BJP of “dividing and looting” India as the British had done in the pre-Independence era.
On Saturday, Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP government for all-round failure on the economic front.
“Under the UPA government, the Indian economy was very strong and could challenge even the US economy. The whole world praised our economic management. Now, under the present government, what is the status,” Gandhi asked.
He further urged for a return to the Congress “which lives in the soul of Maharashtra”, adding the party wouldn’t promise the moon, but make down-to-earth promises which the party would sincerely fulfil for the welfare of the people of the state.
The 288-member Maharashtra Assembly will go to the polls on October 21 while the results will be declared on October 24.