After the French government and Dassault Aviation contradicted former President Francois Hollande’s claim in choosing Indian industrial partners in the multi-million dollar Rafale jet deal, the Congress on Saturday said the French statement “conceals more than it reveals”.

“The French statement conceals more than it reveals. The French government knows verbal interactions between former President Francois Hollande and Indian interlocutors are minuted and would emerge. Speculation of French Parliamentary hearing into Rafale and access to administration documents under France’s Freedom of Information Law 1978 rife,” Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari tweeted.

“What French government/corporate entity has just ended up doing is making Rafale procurement a veritable domestic issue in French politics also. By saying Hollande is being economical with truth they have set the stage for facts/documents to become a torrent,” he said.

Countering the attack, Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union Minister Ananth Kumar tweeted: “Nailing the lie on its head — misinformation about Rafael deal, Dassault being called out by the French government.”

Hours after Hollande claimed that the Indian government suggested a particular private firm for Rafale offset contract, the French government issued a statement late Friday.

“The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies,” the statement read.

“In accordance with India’s acquisition procedure, French companies have the full freedom to choose their Indian partner companies that they consider to be the most relevant, then present for the Indian government’s approval the offset projects that they wish to execute in India with these local partners so as to fulfill their obligations in this regard,” it further said.

Dassault Aviation, the makers of the Rafale jets, in a statement also on Friday night, said: “This offsets contract is delivered in compliance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 regulations. In this framework, and in accordance with the policy of ‘Make in India’, Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This is Dassault Aviation’s choice.”

The deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets from France was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 and signed in 2016.

The UPA government was earlier negotiating a deal to procure 126 Rafale jets, with 18 to come in flyaway condition and 108 to be manufactured by HAL under licence.

Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, had chosen Reliance Defence as its partner to fulfill offset obligations of the deal.

The Modi government has repeatedly said it was Dassault that chose its India partner for offsets and that the government had no say in the deal.

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.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the reports of French media and said that the PM Modi personally negotiated and changed the Rafale deal behind closed doors.

(With agency inputs)