In retaliation, the BJP later termed the Congress' allegations as part of an "international conspiracy" into the repeated attacks on the government. Expressing apprehension that the documents may be destroyed, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, “It is the duty of the CVC to seize all the relevant documents”

The political slugfest between the BJP-led government at the Centre and Congress over the Rafale deal intensified on Monday after the latter moved the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and sought a registration of a case as well as the seizure of relevant documents pertaining to the deal. Hours later, the BJP hit back and called the allegations a part of an “international conspiracy”.

An 11-member delegation led by Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad met CVC KV Chowdary and submitted a detailed memorandum, accusing the government of fixing the deal at an “escalated price of about 300 per cent” and violating the Defence Procurement Policy (DPP).

The meeting with the CVC comes days after another Congress delegation met the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and urged it to prepare a report on the alleged irregularities in the fighter jet plane deal and present it in Parliament.

“Rafale scam has now emerged as India’s biggest defence scam. Tracks of corruption are getting unravelled by the day with repeated disclosures getting no answers from the Defence Ministry of the Government of the day. The stench of corruption and cronyism in the Rafale deal is nauseating, requiring urgent intervention by your good self,” the memorandum, which was submitted today, read.

As per the law, the memorandum said, the government is bound to provide full information to the CVC, “entire deal, its contours, nature of contract, absence of favouritism, corruption, crony capitalism, violation of law and procedures and the principles of level playing field are part of CVC’s domain to examine and to return a finding”.

“The government is bound to disclose the price of 36 aircraft to scrutiny by CVC in light of the serious allegations of corruption and loss of money to public exchequer. We, therefore, request the CVC to undertake its statutory duty by examining record threadbare, so that corruption, crony capitalism, violation of law and procedure and loss to public exchequer is brought out as the earliest,” the letter said.

The Congress in the letter also referred to the revelations made by former French President Francois Hollande and said he has “exposed the web of corruption”. “Neither the French government nor the Indian government including Defence Ministry and Prime Minister have contradicted the truth of Hollande’s assertions,” the Congress said, citing Hollande’s interview to a French website which said that India “proposed Reliance Defence for the offset contract and the French government didn’t have a choice but to accept it”.

“In fact, the current French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, has admitted the fact that PM Modi had asked Hollande to give Rs 30,000 crore to Reliance by calling it an ‘observation’ in an interview to Radio J of France,” the party said.

Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for not disclosing the purchase price of the 36 aircraft citing confidentiality, the party said, “Their disclosure is even more intriguing when both Dassault and Reliance have disclosed the price in the Annual Report, 2016, and the press release dated February 16, 2017.”

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with the CVC, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi asserted that the government has no answers to various questions concerning the deal and no one is telling why the whole procedure took place in a reverse order. “Why was a contract of Rs 30,000 crore given to a company that is on the verge of bankruptcy? How can they sideline a company like HAL?” he said.

“We told the CVC that no one was informed about the decision, including the defence chief, HAL chief or Air Force chief. The cost has been increased by 300 per cent and it is clear from (then French president Francois) Hollande and (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi’s joint statement that it is the same aircraft that was going to be initially purchased. We expect the CVC to take cognisance of it,” Sharma said.

‘International Conspiracy’: BJP

In retaliation, the BJP later termed the Congress’ allegations as part of an “international conspiracy” into the repeated attacks on the government. Addressing the media, Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat accused Congress chief Rahul Gandhi of being a part the conspiracy.

To substantiate the “international conspiracy” claim, the minister referred to Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s earlier interview to a Pakistan new channel, asking help to remove PM Modi.

The party also alleged that the former UPA government cancelled the deal because Dassault refused to make the firm of Sanjay Bhandari, who is a friend of Robert Vadra, a partner in the deal. “Now, the Congress is hatching an international conspiracy to demoralise the Air Force,” Shekhawat said.

Will Fight Perception Battle: Sitharaman

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government will fight the “perception battle” over the Rafale deal by putting facts before the masses to counter the Congress’ “false propaganda”. She also reiterated Shekhawat’s allegations of an “international dimension” to the deal but did not elaborate. “I, others will go around the country to put facts before the public. It is a matter of perception battle,” she told reporters.

The minister also rejected the Congress’ charge that the Modi government had undermined the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, saying the HAL on an average got annual orders worth over Rs 10,000 crore during the 10-year UPA rule against annual orders of around Rs 22,000 crore given by the current dispensation so far.