Congress President Rahul Gandhi has been escalating attack on Prime Minister Modi and the ruling NDA since the time the purported statements of former French President Francois Hollande over Rafale deal surfaced in French Media. Gandhi has been claiming that Reliance was chosen as the offset partner of Dassault Aviation for manufacturing Rafale fighter jets and the contract was ‘snatched’ from Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as PM Modi wanted to favor Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group and in turn benefit himself and the BJP. However, even as the Congress President is batting for HAL, the fact of the matter is that Dassault Aviation had dropped the company from the Rafale deal in the UPA era.
On February 13, 2012, media widely reported the tie-up between Reliance Industries and France’s Dassault Aviation. The announcement of the tie-up came less than two weeks after Dassault’s Rafale fighter jets emerged as the lowest bidder to supply the Indian Air Force with 126 fighter jets.
Furthermore, Dassault Aviation in its 2013 Annual Report had stated that Rafale negotiations with India were taking a ‘long time’ because of “coming to agreements with local companies, and in particular with our main partner, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), on the work to be done in India'.
The Annual Report of Dassault charts out the reason the company steered away from HAL for the Rafale deal. The statement points out to the fact that it was a sheer strategic decision by Dassault Aviation and not something forced down by the NDA regime, as has been claimed by Rahul Gandhi and his party.
Rahul Gandhi's support for HAL came after T Suvarna Raju, the ex boss of HAL claimed that Rafale fighter jets could have been built by the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in India and urged the Union government to put out the files in public. However, TS Raju also said that HAL may not have built the planes at the desired "cost-per-piece”. The very next day, however, government sources dismissed TS Raju's statement as "factually incorrect", saying there were many major area of disagreements between HAL and Dassault.
Earlier on September 22, blunting the opposition's claim on Rafale, Former French President Francois Hollande issued a clear denial and said he was 'unaware' on India putting pressure for taking Reliance on board for the deal. When asked by French news agency AFP whether India had put pressure on Reliance and Dassault to work together, Hollande said he was “unaware” and “only Dassault can comment on this.”
An article in a French journal triggered a massive controversy as it had a statement of Hollande purportedly saying that it was the Indian government that proposed Reliance's name and Dassault had no choice but to take the company given to it.
After the controversy over Rafale broke out, Dassault Aviation, in a press release, stated that to choose Reliance Group as a partner was its own choice. Furthermore, the French government has also dismissed former President Francois Hollande’s claim and mentioned it was a private to private negotiation.