News Analysis |
Barely surviving a humiliation in Occupied Kashmir at the hands of Pakistan, Indian Prime Minister Modi is facing a new threat that could sink his career. The French Rafale fighter jet which Modi claimed would be the salvation of India against archrival Pakistan may become his undoing. Indian opposition leaders have been alleging major corruption in the $8.7 billion deal for the purchase of 36 fighter jet for the Indian Air Force that was signed in 2016.
A number of petitions have been filed in the apex court regarding procurement of 36 Rafale fighters from French manufacturer Dassault Aviation, in which the Supreme Court of India had given the Modi government a certificate of exoneration. Advocate Prashant Bhushan, one of the petitioners in the case, has alleged that the government lied in court about the Rafale deal and should face perjury charges.
The Congress president further alleged that the schedule of the delivery of Rafale fighter jets to India was intentionally delayed to benefit Anil Ambani’s Reliance Groups.
Attorney General Venugopal argued in court that documents on the Rafale deal relied upon by petitioners were marked ‘secret’ and ‘classified’, therefore they are in violation of the Official Secrets Act. He further informed that the documents had gone missing from the Defence Ministry a long time ago and that an investigation is pending.
The petitioners have asked for a review after the Supreme Court said in December that there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process amid Congress allegations of corruption in the 2016 jet deal. The top court dismissed petitions alleging that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help Anil Ambani’s company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault.
Modi’s main political opponent Rahul Gandhi has called for a probe against the Indian Prime Minister. Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that the fact that the papers were stolen underlines their authenticity and called for a probe against the Prime Minister. The Congress president, in an early morning press conference, said that the Prime Minister performed a bypass surgery in the Rafale deal. He also said that “parallel negotiations” have “retarded” the delivery schedule of the Rafale fighter jets to benefit Anil Ambani.
Read more: Rafale Scandal: Indian defence chief denies allegations on France visit
The Indian government also threatened to pursue legal action against the English newspaper The Hindu for leaking secrets. The government threatened The Hindu with the Official Secrets Act for publishing articles based on them. In a report published in the daily last month, it was alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office had conducted “parallel negotiations” in the Rafale defense deal.
Congress picked up on this as well. “In papers, it is clearly said that parallel negotiations were being done by PM Modi. Narendra Modi has done bypass surgery,” the Congress president said. The government has constantly rejected the allegations leveled by the Congress with the BJP accusing Gandhi of spreading lies to torpedo the Rafale deal due to his vested interests. Ambani has also rejected corruption allegations.
Already humiliated by his foreign arch-foe, Modi now faces a second test in the form of the Rafale deal which has the potential to destroy him politically.
On government’s call for a probe against the newspaper, the Congress president said that a probe should also be called against the people whose names are mentioned in those papers. “Clear cut the file is mentioning the PM, it says, the PMO is carrying out parallel negotiations,” he added. The Congress president further alleged that the schedule of the delivery of Rafale fighter jets to India was intentionally delayed to benefit Anil Ambani’s Reliance Groups.
All in all, it looks like rough riding for Indian premier Modi. While he himself came to power riding on the back of an anti-corruption movement against the then ruling Indian National Congress government it seems the tables have turned. A steady decline of Modi has been manifest since he started his demonetization plan which caused damage to the Indian economy.
Modi seemed to hedge his bets on increasing his vote bank through warmongering. Utilizing a suicide attack by a Kashmiri youth radicalized by Indian atrocities, he launched an optical airspace violation of Pakistan and claimed to have inflicted much damage. However, a retaliatory Pakistani strike that targeted unmanned depots in IOK and the downing of Indian fighters the next day seemed to have upended his entire election momentum.
Read more: Mega corruption in Indian defense deals?
International media also played its part when it exposed Indian airstrikes as having no basis in reality. Already humiliated by his foreign arch-foe, Modi now faces a second test in the form of the Rafale deal which has the potential to destroy him politically.