Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah on Saturday attacked his Congress counterpart Rahul Gandhi wondering if he has formed an worldwide "mahagathbandhan" (grand alliance) with Pakistan against Prime Minister Narendra Modi as both are saying "Modi hatao" (remove Modi).
The Congress, from its official Twitter handle, said the former French president had exposed "the web of lies" spun by the Modi government. Ahead of India's 2019 general election, in which Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party will campaign on its pro-poor policies and economic development record, the allegations of impropriety against the government could provide fuel to opposition critiques that the prime minister is too cozy with tycoons. His comments on Friday stoked debate over a subject which has gained significant traction in recent weeks, since the Opposition Congress party accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of favouring a private conglomerate over a public company in the aircraft deal.
The government's repeated denials that Anil Ambani's Reliance Group got special favours in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters were on Friday challenged, with former French president François Hollande revealing that New Delhi nominated Ambani as the Indian offset partner. "We did not have a choice, we took the interlocutor who was given to us".
In a two-hour interaction, the Congress president continually alleged that the RSS was out to attack independent institutions and was trying to take over the education system. The following month, Reliance Defence and Dassault announced the creation of a joint venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd, to manufacture the aircraft.
So far the French government, which has enormous economic and strategic stakes in letting the Rafale purchase go through smoothly, has remained silent on the Indian government's "nomination" of DRAL as a key offset partner. "We did not have a say in this".
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"The Modi government has lied and misled Indians".
Responding to the interview, Defence Ministry spokesperson tweeted: "The report referring to former French President Mr. Hollande's statement that GoI insisted upon a particular firm as offset partner for the Dassault Aviation in Rafale is being verified. Shame on you. You betrayed India's soul (sic)", Gandhi tweeted. "I could not even imagine that there was any connection to a film by Julie Gayet", Hollande was quoted by the French media having commented on the ongoing Rafale deal. "This is Dassault Aviation's choice", said the company.
The French government had issued a statement last night, saying they were not involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners and that French companies had the freedom to choose Indian partner companies in the Rafale deal.
The French company said: "Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India's Reliance Group".
"By hiding crucial facts on Rafale deal, is Modi govt not endangering national security? It is a matter related to defence forces, it is a matter related to corruption", he said. The French government says it played no role in Dassault's selection of Reliance.
He also claimed that various defence ministers of the NDA government have been lying to protect Modi.