NEW DELHI: A day after Congress president met serving and former employees of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited in Bangalore and promised to ensure HAL will not be elbowed out of the Rafale fighter craft deal, the Congress demanded that the Rafale tender be subject to a forensic audit and that all papers related to the multi-crore defence deal, including the draft of the joint statement issued by India and France, be seized and sealed with immediate effect and be made available for examination by a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

Congress leader Anand Sharma said that the party will persist and force a JPC probe into the Rafale deal and challenged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to give in if indeed there was no act of “commission or omission” on his part. Sharma said, “Why are there no minutes of the meeting between former French president Francoise Hollande and PM Narendra Modi? We demand that the minutes of the meeting between Hollande and PM Modi be put in public domain.”

Accusing, once again, PM Modi of being “personally complicit” in pushing HAL out of the Rafale deal in order to accommodate Anil Ambai’s Reliance Defence, Sharma said, “The Prime Minister has much to hide...By the sequence of facts on record, it is very clear that it (removing HAL as offset partner) was his decision, only he was privy to what he was going to do.”

Persisting in their accusation that granting an offset contract to HAL as a part of the Rafale deal was part of a live contract that was initiated pursuant to a global tender, Congress also said Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman was now visiting the Dassault facility in France as a part of a larger “cover-up” operation.

In addition to launching a bitter invective against the PM, and referring to the Rafale deal as a case of crony capitalism, conflict of interest, and an act that compromises national security because “India never buys anything as a state...without complete transfer of technology; a precondition and integral part of the defence acquisition and defence procurement policy”, Sharma also attacked Sitharaman for being the first defence minister to question HAL’s competence and capabilities — the company that has built 90% of the Indian Air Force’s combat aircraft.