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Rafale deal: Rahul Gandhi attacks PM, issues 'Modi Scam Alert!'

Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Saturday attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over an alleged scam in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal with France. Issuing a "Modi Scam Alert!" Gandhi tweeted:

"$15 billion fighter jet deal re-tendered. Prime Minister's friend's race to tie up strategic partners.

"RAFALE, (Rs) 40,000 crore loss to the exchequer was "Sayonara" (bye bye in Japenese) money to French, so Prime Minister could re-tender contract and favour friends."

Gandhi's comment came in the wake of a news report which stated that India was looking to buy more than 100 new fighter jets which were eventually expected to cost upwards of Rs 100,000 crore or about $15 billion.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Friday initiated the procurement of 110 fighter aircraft for its depleted combat force - now languishing at 31 fighter squadrons against the desired strength of 42. When in service, these fighters will fill six squadrons. The order would be worth between $9-13 billion (Rs 584-844 billion) making it the world's biggest international fighter buy. Single engine fighters would cost about $80-85 million each, while twin-engine fighters would cost closer to $120 million apiece.

Earlier in March, Rahul Gandhi alleged that Dassault Aviation, the French company that manufactured the fighter jets, had called the "lie" of "RM" (Raksha Mantri or Defence Minister) Nirmala Sitharaman by releasing the price of the aircraft. "Dassault called RM's lie and released prices paid per RAFALE plane in report: Qatar = 1319 Cr (13.19 billion), MODI = 1670 Cr (16.7 billion), MMS = 570 Cr (5.7 billion)

"1100 Cr (11 billion) per plane or 36,000 Cr (360 billion) i.e 10 pc of our Defence budget, in the pocket. Meanwhile, our Army begs our Govt. for money (sic)," the Congress leader said on Twitter.

The Congress has been demanding details of the deal, alleging that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the Modi government. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the price of the jets cannot be revealed in the interest of national security.

Meanwhile, the BJP accused Congress president Rahul Gandhi of adopting "big lie technique" in his attack on the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal. BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said Gandhi was drawing a leaf from Hitler's propaganda driven by the "big lie technique" that a lie repeated a thousand times would be taken as truth with time.

"By his "reckless" action, Gandhi and his party were endangering national security and were quoting instances selectively where such details had been revealed," he said.

Dismissing Rahul's allegations, Arun Jaitley said, UPA's new strategy is to manufacture corruption charges.

Jaitley said, "Secrecy is an inherent part of any deal. They're compromising national security by asking for details which should not be made public, by which I mean known to the enemy."

Congress President Rahul Gandhi is touring in Bengaluru division and campaigning ahead of the May 12 Assembly polls in Karnataka. Gandhi will tour in Kolar, Chikkaballapura and Bengaluru as part of his sixth leg of poll campaign in the state, party sources said.

The Congress president began his tour by visiting Kudumalai Ganesha temple at Mulabagilu and will later take part in a road show. He is also scheduled to address corner meeting and public meeting at Kolar and Chikkaballapura respectively.