Congress President Rahul Gandhi seen here at Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg, Germany, Aug. 22. (Press Trust of India)
An aggressive Rahul Gandhi, Aug. 30, launched a two-pronged offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi on demonetisation and Rafale deal, terming them as huge scams which were committed to help his “crony capitalist friends”.
In a no-holds-barred attack on Modi, the Congress chief alleged that the noteban “scam” was deliberately inflicted on common people by the PM who owes an answer to the country on why he did so, and demanded a JPC probe into the Rafale issue saying the country wants to know “what is the deal between the prime minister and businessman Anil Ambani”.
He alleged that there was much to hide in the Rafale deal and that is why Modi was inclined to go for a JPC.
Addressing a press conference a day after the RBI in its final report said almost all the demonetised currency has returned to the banking system, he said the note ban decision was not a mistake but an “assault” on the common man.
“Noteban is nothing less than a huge scam and evidence is slowly coming out… You apologise when you make a mistake. Demonetisation was not a mistake, but done deliberately by the prime minister as a well thought-out attack on you (the people of India) with the intention of helping his 15-20 crony capitalist friends.
“His aim was to help big crony capitalists who have marketed him, by handing over the money snatched from the pockets of common people,” Gandhi told reporters.
He was asked if Modi should apologise for the note ban decision.
“Prime Minister Modi should answer why he inflicted the deep wound like demonetisation when issues like unemployment and low GDP rate remained,” the Congress president said while referring to the RBI’s report on the outcome of the demonetisation exercise.
On the Rafale issue, Gandhi alleged it is a “clear cut” case where Modi is “lying” and cited a joint statement made by the PM and French President Francois Hollande in 2015 where it was made clear that the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the “same configuration” as had been tested and approved by the Indian Air Force.
“The point is, it is written in the prime minister’s joint statement that the aircraft will have the same configuration. The prime minister is now saying something else. The statement he gave with Mr Hollande, was it the same Narendra Modi.
“It is clearly written that the configuration is going to be of the same configuration. So the man is lying,” he said while attacking the prime minister.
Industrialist Anil Ambani has denied the Congress charge that the government had a role in his Reliance group being chosen as an offset supplier and has accused the party of making “false statements”. He has also written to Rahul Gandhi explaining the deal and slapped defamation notices on Congress leaders asking them not to make “false” statements.
Asked about the defamation notices by Ambani, Gandhi said, “You can slap as many defamation notices as you want, but the truth will remain the same”.
“Why did you buy an aircraft of Rs 520 crore at the price of Rs 1,600 crore? Who were you (Modi) trying to benefit?” Gandhi asked.
Gandhi also attacked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, saying while he was blogging he had not said anything on the probe by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.
Referring to his blog yesterday, Gandhi said Jaitley has asked some questions, but an option has been given to the prime minister through Jaitley that he is free to ask questions but before the joint parliamentary committee.
“Everything will be clear as to what happened in Rafale,” he said.
“I have no problems and the Congress party has no objections, we all will agree. The 24-hour deadline is coming to an end and Arun Jaitley is writing long blogs but is not responding to my question. I think Arun Jaitley is caught in a fix, as the permission (for a JPC) is to be given by Narendra Modi. I hope Arun Jaitley has asked from the prime minister, hope he is not afraid of asking the prime minister,” he said.
He later tweeted, “Dear Mr Jaitley, I guess your boss refused to hold a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the GREAT RAFALE ROBBERY? Too much to hide, too scared to face the people, I suppose…”
Gandhi started his press conference by asking journalists if they were writing “freely”.
He said noteban had no positive results and Modi has “to answer India and to the youth who are suffering from unemployment, as to why you inflicted such a wound on the country. What was the reason and logic behind it.”
He alleged that Modi took the decision to help his industrialist friends convert their blackmoney and those who had a lot of NPAs.
“His (PM’s) 15-20 big crony capitalist friends who had taken loans from banks, had a lot of non performing assets and Narendra Modi took away the money from your pockets and put it into their pockets,” he alleged.
Gandhi also alleged that at the time of noteban, “many of Modi’s friends converted their black money into white”. Citing Gujarat, he claimed Rs 700 crore was converted in the cooperative bank in which BJP chief Amit Shah is a director.
“Was there a probe as to whose money was converted,” he asked.
The Congress had been critical of the note ban announced by Modi in November 2016, raising it in several assembly elections. In the run up to Lok Sabha elections, it had stepped up its attack over the Rafale deal to corner the Modi government, which has often cited a corruption-free administration as one of its achievements after several alleged scams came to light during the UPA rule.