The Congress on Tuesday accused the Modi government of trying to "cover-up" corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal and demanded a JPC probe into it, asking why it did not investigate the role of a middleman despite recovering incriminating documents from him.
The remarks came after French investigative portal Mediapart in fresh revelations alleged bogus invoices were used that enabled French aircraft maker Dassault Aviation to pay at least 7.5 million euros in secret commissions to a middleman to help it secure the Rafale deal with India.
The report claimed that commissions were paid between 2007 and 2012 for securing the Rafale deal with India.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told party leaders to not stop or be afraid of fighting against the "corrupt" central government as the truth was with them at every step.
"When the truth is with you in every step, then what is there to worry about? My Congress colleagues - keep fighting like this against the corrupt central government. Don't stop, don't get tired, don't be afraid," Gandhi said in a tweet in Hindi, using the hashtag "#RafaleScam".
Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera also alleged that the BJP government has sacrificed national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores of rupees to the state exchequer.
French investigative journal Mediapart in fresh revelations in a report has exposed how middleman Sushen Gupta got hold of confidential documents belonging to the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) in 2015 from the ministry of defence and bribe was paid in lieu, he said.
The documents detailed the stance of Indian negotiators during the final lap of negotiation and in particular how they calculated the price of the aircraft. This gave clear advantage to Dassault Aviation (Rafale), Khera claimed, citing the Mediapart report.
"The 'operation cover-up' by the Modi government to bury the melting pot of corruption, kickbacks and collusion in the Rafale deal is once again exposed," he said.
"The BJP government undermined national security, jeopardised the interests of the Indian Air Force and caused loss worth thousands of crores to our exchequer," Khera said at a press conference.
Citing the French media report, the BJP on Tuesday said the INC (Indian National Congress) should be renamed as "I Need Commission" and alleged that the Congress' dissatisfaction with the cut that was offered was behind the failed negotiations when it was in power.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra launched a scathing attack on the Congress leadership, especially Rahul Gandhi who has been alleging corruption in the purchase of the fighter aircraft by the Modi government, and accused him of spreading "canard, disinformation and lies".
Patra also sought Rahul Gandhi's response to the fresh revelation by French investigative journal Mediapart, alleging that he should respond from Italy, since he is currently not in India as per reports.
Congress leader K C Venugopal said the only answer to the charges is to conduct a JPC inquiry into the Rafale issue.
"If kickbacks have been given, then there has to be an inquiry. Why are you running away from the inquiry? It is very clear that there is a need for a JPC inquiry for which we are asking the government," he said.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said despite all evidence, why did the government agencies not investigate corruption in Rafale.
"Not just parts of the deal, the entire deal is suspect," he alleged.
Khera alleged that a note of June 24, 2014, sent to Dassault by Gupta, offering a meeting with "the political high command" was also recovered and asked if such a meeting had taken place with the "high command" in the Modi government.
He alleged that each revelation in the "murky affair in the last five years, every single allegation and each piece of the puzzle leads right up to the topmost leadership of the country- the prime minister's doorstep".
The Congress leader asked whether it is not correct that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) recovered "secret defence ministry documents" from the middlemen in a raid conducted on March 26, 2019.
"This is nothing short of endangering national security, sedition and a gross violation of Official's Secrets Act," he alleged.
"Why did the ED not pursue this evidence further to investigate the scam? Why did the Modi government then not take action against Dassault, the political executive or the defence ministry officers who leaked the documents? Which 'Chowkidar' sold India's national secrets," Khera asked.
"Why was the deletion of anti-corruption clauses approved by the prime minister and the Modi government in September 2016, despite the defence ministry's insistence upon including it in the inter-governmental agreement in July 2015," Khera asked.
Khera claimed that on October 4, 2018, two former BJP Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and a senior lawyer submitted a complaint to the director of the CBI citing massive corruption in the Rafale deal.
But, on October 23, 2018, CBI Director Alok Verma was removed in a "midnight coup" after the CBI headquarters was raided by the Delhi Police, Khera said, alleging that this was part of a concerted conspiracy to bury the Rafale ghost through the CBI.
"Why has the Modi government and the CBI not acted upon the evidence of commission and corruption for the last 36 months? Why has it been buried? Why did the Modi government remove the CBI Chief in a midnight coup," the Congress leader asked.
Khera said the Supreme Court has never said no to a JPC.
"We have been demanding JPC. Now, we want this truth to come out... Why isn't the BJP asking for a JPC?" he said.