Firing fresh salvo at the Congress party and its president Rahul Gandhi, BJP leader and Union minister Gajendra Shekhawat on Monday alleged that the opposition leader was being part of an “international conspiracy” to sabotage the Rafale fighter jet deal to benefit his brother-in-law Robert Vadra.

The minister also claimed that Vadra had links with arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari. He said the Congress-led government cancelled the deal with
Dassault as the French company did not accept one of Vadra’s firm as “middleman”.

“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,” the minister said.

Referring to former French president Francois Hollande, who stirred controversy about the Rafale fighter jet deal with India last week, Shekhawat said, “How Rahul Gandhi and he (Hollande) are linked as a part of nexus, and are trying to sabotage the deal needs to be understood.”

Accusing the opposition of messing with national security, the minister said the Congress party was weakening the Army’s morale by keeping the nation’s interest on the business interests of its son-in-law (Robert Vadra).

Hollande, who left office in May last year, said on Friday during a trip to India that French jet manufacturer Dassault Aviation had been given no choice about its local partner in a 2016 deal with the Indian administration.

Hollande’s announcement that Dassault “did not have a say in it” added fuel to claims from India’s opposition that the New Delhi government had intervened to help Ambani.

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 president Rahul Gandhi went on the offensive. He 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.

“An ex-president of France is calling him (the prime minister of India) a thief. It’s a question of the dignity of the office of the prime minister,” he told a news conference in New Delhi.

PM Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters after talks with Hollande on April 10, 2015, in Paris.