New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today questioned former French President Francois Hollande’s hugely controversial statements on the Rafale fighter jet deal, saying “truth cannot have two versions”.
In an interview to a French journal on Friday, Mr Hollande said that France was given no choice on the Indian partner for manufacturer Dassault Aviation.
But the former president, when asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, told news agency AFP that he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.
This, Mr Jaitley, says “contradicts his first questionable statement which the French Government and Dassault have denied”.
The partners (Dassault and Reliance) selected themselves as former President Hollande now says, Jaitley said in the post titled ‘A Questionable Statement Which Circumstances & Facts Demolish’.
“This contradicts his first questionable statement which the French Government and Dassault have denied. The facts contradict the same. His second statement in Montreal, Canada to AFP (news agency) makes the veracity of his first statement even more questionable,” the minister said.
AFP reported that Hollande told it on the sidelines of a meeting in Canada on Friday that France “did not choose Reliance in any way”. When asked whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was unaware and “only Dassault can comment on this”.
A political controversy has erupted over Hollande’s statement that the Indian government wanted the Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence to be chosen as offset partner of Dassault, the manufacturer of the Rafale fighter jets.
“The French Government and M/s Dassault Aviation have categorically denied the correctness of the former President’s first statement.
“The French Government has stated that the decision with regard to the offset contracts of Dassault Aviation is taken by the company and not the Government,” Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
“Dassault Aviation itself has suggested that they have entered into multiple contracts with several public sector and private sector companies with regard to the offset contracts and the decision are entirely theirs,” he added.
Jaitley’s counter comes amid a major political firestorm over Mr Hollande’s remarks that have bolstered opposition Congress’s allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The finance minister also attacked Rahul Gandhi. “Public discourse is not a laughter challenge”. “Sometimes you hug people, wink at them, and then give wrong accusations against them 10 times. “Attacks in a democracy happen, but the language should be of civility.”
Arun Jaitley based his latest attack on Rahul Gandhi’s party to a tweet that he claimed was posted by the Congress on 31 August that would place Hollande’s latest statement in a contradictory position. “The Congress Party’s official handle on 31.8.2018 had carried the tweet of one of its leader ‘It is evident that Anil Ambani bribed President Hollande through his actor-partner to get the Dassault partnership’,” Arun Jaitley wrote.
Mr Jaitley, citing this tweet, questioned the credibility of the Congress’s allegation on the Rafale deal. “…the Congress party to allege that a former president had been bribed by an Indian business group, and then use him as a primary witness, particularly when he is facing criticism for an alleged conflict of interest within his own country.”
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said mere allegations against the Modi government don’t prove anything. Responding to the accusations of wrongdoings, Jaitley said the Rafale deal is clean and there is no question of cancelling it.
“The Rafale deal is clean and there is no question of cancelling it,” Jaitley said. He said the Indian defence forces need fighter planes, and the Rafale planes are coming to India. “These jets are coming to India…They will enhance the combat ability of the Indian Air Force,” he said.
He said the question whether the planes were bought at a higher rate or not is something that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) will examine. Jaitley claimed that the Rafale aircraft that are being purchased by the Modi government is cheaper than the price that was negotiated by the Congress-led UPA government.
Reacting to Rahul Gandhi’s attack on the prime minister where he accused him of compromising interests of Indian soldiers, Jaitley said in his blog on Facebook: “Rahul Gandhi has made an absurd suggestion that the interest of Indian soldiers has been compromised with. By whom? The UPA which delayed the acquisition which would have added to the military’s combat ability or the NDA which expedited the same at a lower cost.”
Besides this, the finance minister also indicated the possibility of a conspiracy against the Modi government and questioned the timing of the statements of former French President Hollande on the Rafale deal. He said Hollande’s interview to the French media comes days after Rahul Gandhi said a major disclosure on the Rafale deal will be made soon.