Rafale bribe charge: BJP says it is 'completely baseless', middleman whose name surfaced 'linked' to Cong

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New Delhi, Apr 5 (PTI) The BJP on Monday dismissed as 'completely baseless' the allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal, stressing that the Supreme Court had rejected a demand for a probe in the purchase of the fighter aircraft and the CAG also found nothing wrong.

Responding to a question about the Congress' attack on the Modi government over the bribe allegations, senior BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference that the opposition party made it a big issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls but lost badly.

He said the allegations of corruption were 'completely baseless' and suggested that a report in the French media about the alleged financial irregularity in the deal may be due to 'corporate rivalry' in that country.

Noting that the Congress had raised the issue earlier too, he said the Supreme Court rejected the demand for a probe and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) also found nothing wrong in the fighter aircraft deal.

The Congress on Monday sought a thorough probe in the Rafale defence deal and demanded answers from Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a French media report claimed that 1.1 million euros were paid to a 'middleman' by the aircraft manufacturer.

'The Congress is raising the Rafale issue again. It lost in the Supreme Court. They campaigned in the 2019 polls on the Rafale issue, threw all kinds of abuses at the prime minister and still lost. How many seats did it get,' Prasad said.

He noted that Sushen Gupta, the middleman whose name has cropped up in the French report on the Rafale deal, was arrested in the AgustaWestland case by the Enforcement Directorate in 2019.

In this probe, the names of many Congress leaders had surfaced, Prasad said and accused the Congress of trying to 'weaken' the security forces.

The Indian Air Force received a fleet of fighter aircraft in Rafale after 30 years, he said, adding that had it been there during the time of the Balakot operation to target terrorists in Pakistan then Indian aircraft would not have to cross the borders to carry out the strike.

To a question about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's allegation that the operation against Naxals in Chhattisgarh, in which 22 security personnel were killed, was 'incompetently' executed and 'poorly designed', Prasad shot back that India is increasingly refusing to take him seriously for the kind of 'irresponsible' utterances he keeps making with 'alarming regularity'. PTI KR RT