The government has gone on the offensive yet again against Rahul Gandhi over the Rafale deal, with union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Monday posing a set of questions to the Congress president over sensational revelations regarding Agusta middleman Christian Michel's alleged additional involvement in the MMRCA acquisition procedure under the UPA.
Addressing reporters at Parliament, the Law minister spoke about how years after Dassault Aviation and its Rafale aircraft had been selected as part of the lengthy tendering process, Michel, as well as another Agusta middleman Guido Haschke had allegedly lobbied for the competing Eurofighter aircraft instead. Furthermore, the minister claimed that the lobbying had even effected a rethink on the Rafale fighter despite it already having cleared a number procedures.
Highlighting that explosive documents now in the public domain had shown how middlemen, including one who is under arrest (Michel), were also pushing the case for the Eurofighter which was competing with Rafale for India's contract, the minister read passages that revealed the extent to which Michel was allegedly embedded not only with the then hierarchy of India's defence establishment, but also the then Finance Minister, Prime Minister and the "leading family".
"Why is it that the leading family, namely the Gandhi family appears in document after document? Be it AgustaWestland or the fighter planes Rafale and its competitor, the Eurofighter?", Ravi Shankar Prasad asked.
He added, "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. As per the ED's submissions to the Patiala House court, Michel has named a "Mrs. Gandhi" and has also spoken about “the son of the Italian lady” and how he is going to become the “next prime minister of the country”. The context of his mentions is as-yet unknown.