Prime Minister Narendra Modi confronted Rahul Gandhi directly on Wednesday while addressing a mega-rally in Maharashtra's Solapur. Attacking the Congress president on the latter's continued allegations of scam in the Rafale deal, PM Modi went on the offensive over the Rafale-link to Agusta middleman Christian Michel that has recently surfaced, wherein he is accused of lobbying on behalf of the Eurofighter against Dassault's Rafale years after Rafale had already been selected as part of the MMRCA acquisition tendering process under the UPA.
PM Modi said:
"The government has been finding many middlemen in the Helicopter scam. Out of them, one has been brought in and is currently serving jail time. According to media reports, he has made some shocking revelations. He was not only involved in the Helicopter deal, but when deals were being made for fighter planes by the earlier government, he had a role in them also. Media people are talking about this 'Michel Mama' - This 'Michel Mama' was lobbying for planes from some other companies also. Now, it is important to find the answers to these questions. It is important to find that the Congress leader who has been raising questions, what is their connection with 'Michel Mama'?
In her #FinalRafaleInterview to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami on Tuesday, Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman had also been asked about the Eurofighter lobbying charge, essentially whether she genuinely believed that Congress was lobbying for the Eurofighter, and said the following:
"It's worthy of being asked to the Congress president. Today he (Christian Michel) is here facing the law. Media says he had kept records of what was happening in the PMO then and that he was also here to take care of the competitor of the Rafale. Shouldn't it be asked if there was a connection? What was the then government's role? And I'm worried that if the Congress party is unwittingly being used by corporates, MNCs or anyone else in their corporate rivalries? How can you constantly not answer the question as to why you didn't sign the agreement?"
The Raksha Mantri proceeded to detail how Eurofighter had allegedly attempted to vitiate the tendering process by submitting discounted bids even after Rafale had been selected as L1.
Speaking on the same matter in Parliament a few days earlier, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said:
"The available documents in public domain raise serious circumstances of the intentions of Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party. It is too well known that Congress party is never happy unless there is a 'deal' in a defence deal, whether it be Bofors, submarines or AgustaWestland. And now, even in the case of Rafale, it is evident that there was a close proximity of middlemen who were pushing the case of Eurofighter against Rafale."
"In this light, the entire bogey of falsehoods -- entire campaign of canards unleashed by Rahul Gandhi in particular and the Congress party is completely false and based purely on commercial competition interest. In this light, therefore, I have to ask three questions of Rahul Gandhi:
Finmeccanica, which is the maker of the AgustaWestland helicopters, holds a sizeable stake in the multinational consortium that produces the Eurofighter. Christian Michel, who served as a middleman in the VVIP chopper acquisition deal in which the technical specifications were allegedly altered to favour one particular bidder, was extradited from Dubai in December and is currently in ED custody.