Hollande says PM of India thief: Rahul questions Modi's silence on Rafale deal

New Delhi: In one of the biggest attacks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the former French president claimed that the Indian government proposed Anil Ambani's Reliance Defence as the India partner for the 36 Rafale jet deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said, “former French president Francois Hollande for the first time is calling the Prime Minister of India a thief”.

Calling the Rafale deal corrupt, Rahul Gandhi underlined "PM Modi is corrupt" and asked the Prime Minister to break his silence over the deal.

"Former French president calls our PM a thief... What is staggering is that the prime minister is still silent on it. Not a single word from him," Rahul Gandhi said at a press conference on Saturday.

“We're absolutely convinced that the Prime Minister of India is corrupt. This question is now clearly settled in the mind of the Indian people that 'desh ka chowkidaar' chor hai (The watchman of the country is a thief), the Congress chief said.

Rahul said the Prime Minister should clarify if what the ex-French President is saying is true or false.

Rahul Gandhi's attack comes a day after Hollande told a French investigative journal that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the India partner for the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal and that the French government wasn't given a choice on the matter.

Rahul alleged that PM Modi got the contract for Anil Ambani to bail him out. "The prime minister himself has given a contract of Rs 30,000 crore to Anil Ambani. Anil Ambani had a debt of Rs 45,000 crore and was bailed out by PM Modi," the Congress chief said.

Rahul accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of shielding the Prime Minister and demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Rafale deal.

"It is clear why various defence ministers of this government have been lying; they want to protect PM Modi," he said.

Francois Hollande's claims have been contradicted by both the France government and Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale jet.

The French government had on Friday night said they were in no manner involved in the choice of the Indian industrial partners who have been, are being or will be selected by French companies. Dassault Aviation said that it was their choice to partner with the Reliance Group.

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.

On Saturday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the allegations against the government on the Rafale deal were baseless and that there was no point in raising controversies about it.
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