'Watchman sold out', Congress sharpens Rafale attack against Modi

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New Delhi : The Congress on Thursday raised its Rafale 'scam' pich, accusing Prime Minister Modi of sabotaging country's interest for the sake of his cronies and alleging he fixed a higher benchmark price for the French fighter jets.

A day after the Centre conceded that there was no sovereign guarantee by the French government backing the deal but only a letter of comfort, Congress President Rahul Gandhi took on Modi, saying the "Chowkidar (watchman) has sold out".

"The latest skeleton to tumble out of the Rafale cupboard: No guarantee by the French government backing the deal. But, our Prime Minister says there's a letter from the French promising to be faithful! That's enough to call this a government-to-government deal," Gandhi tweeted, adding "#BikGayaChowkidar" (watchman sold out).

Congress' fresh attack comes amid Attorney General K.K. Venugopal admitting before the Supreme Court that there was no sovereign guarantee by the French government backing the deal but only a letter of comfort.

Later in a media conference, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala questioned why Modi set a higher "benchmark price" and waived the bank guarantee or French government's sovereign guarantee.

"The Prime Minister enhanced the benchmark price for Rafale by Euro 3 billion (Rs 22,743 crore). Why did he set a higher benchmark price of Euro 8.2 Billion (Rs 62,166 crore) from Euro 5.2 billion (Rs 39,422 )? Why did he waive the sovereign guarantee requirement," asked Surjewala.

"The Prime Minister has gone as far as sabotaging the nation's interests in favour of his capitalist cronies," he said.

The Congress accused Modi of "overruling" then defence minister Manohar Parrikar and the defence acquisition council and "ignoring" the advice of the Law Ministry and the air acquisition wing of the Air Force to insist on a sovereign guarantee from France.

"Parrikar as the head of Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) and the three armed forces chiefs also didn't agree and decide on the higher benchmark price of Euro 8.2 billion (Rs 62,166 crore). DAC referred it to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by PM Modi and he in CCS accepted the higher benchmark price," he said.

"These revelations further expose brazen corrupt practices in Rafale scam. The entire spectrum of deception lies at the doorstep of Modi," said Surjewala wondering why National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was allowed to negotiate with the French, and not the negotiations committee of IAF and the Defence Ministry.

Reiterating its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)probe, the party said it was the only forum to investigate the acts of "omission, commission and corruption" in the "biggest defence scam" of India.