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Rahul Gandhi: PAC in French Parliament, perhaps?

Much laughter as Congress chief asks about the mysterious public accounts committee cited by government

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 14.12.18, 10:40 PM
Congress President Rahul Gandhi at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, December 14, 2018

Congress President Rahul Gandhi at a press conference in New Delhi on Friday, December 14, 2018 Prem Singh

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha….

Something as dry as a CAG report on a defence deal has rarely ignited the kind of uproarious laughter that broke out at a news conference on Friday.

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The trigger: Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s suggestion that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had set up a parallel public accounts committee somewhere, which had seen the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the Rafale deal.

“Today the Supreme Court said: ‘The pricing details have, however, been shared with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), and the report of the CAG has been examined by the public accounts committee (PAC). Only a redacted portion of the report was placed before the Parliament, and is in public domain.’ This is the foundation of the judgment. And this is wrong,” Rahul had told the news conference.

He then urged journalists to directly ask Mallikarjun Kharge, Parliament’s public accounts committee chairman who was seated beside him, if the CAG report had come before the PAC and Parliament and whether he had ever seen it in his life. Kharge responded in the negative.

“I am seriously not able to understand this,” Rahul said, asking more than once how the very foundation of the Supreme Court judgment could be wrong.

“When you lie, then somewhere it comes out,” he said, and added that it was for the government to explain now where the CAG report was. “Where is it? Show it to us too. Show it to the PAC chairman,” he added.

Or maybe, there was another PAC functioning in some other Parliament, “in France’s Parliament… I don’t know”, Rahul said, prompting the usually poker-faced journalists to laugh. “It is possible Modiji has installed his PAC in the Prime Minister’s Office,” he continued.

“Because, frankly, institutions have been blown to smithereens,” the Congress president said.

Minutes later, Rahul exploded in anger, asserting that the “whole country knows ‘chowkidar chor hai’”, brushing aside a condemnation by BJP chief Amit Shah of the thief label earlier in the day.

“Rs 30,000 has been stolen…. Farmers, remember, this money that has been stolen is yours, no one else’s. The whole country knows ‘chowkidar chor hai’…. The Prime Minister can hide but can’t escape the clutches of the law,” Rahul said, asserting that as and when Parliament conducted an inquiry, Modi would be caught.

Rahul reiterated all his charges on Rafale — questioning the jump in the price from Rs 526 crore in the UPA deal scrapped by Modi to Rs 1,600 crore now, the ouster of the state-run HAL from the deal and the choice of Anil Ambani’s Reliance as offset partner.

The Congress president also recalled the statement of Francois Hollande, who was French President when Modi sealed the deal, that the offset partner was suggested by the Indian government. He said current French President Emmanuel Macron had told him the price of the deal was not a secret, contradicting the Modi government’s claim that it could not be revealed under a privacy pact with Paris.

The Prime Minister had not given answers to specific questions being raised for more than a year while other ministers kept vacillating, he said.

Congress leaders are carefully examining the judgment. One leader told The Telegraph: “In Para 25, the Supreme Court has recorded that the chief of the air force has expressed his reservations about a disclosure of pricing details. Where is the objection of the air chief? No such objection was placed before the Supreme Court....”

In Para 32, the court says there has been a categorical denial from every side of Hollande’s statement. “Hollande has never denied or retracted his statement. Macron also did not controvert his predecessor,” the leader said.

In the same paragraph, the court said no specific role for HAL was envisaged in the original deal. “There was a workshare agreement signed on March 13, 2014, between HAL and Dassault Aviation for executing the offset contract. This was a specific written relationship,” the Congress leader said.

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