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PMO almost behaved like a middleman by having parallel negotiation on Rafale deal: Cong

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The launched a frontal attack on the Modi on Monday, alleging the (PMO) "almost behaved like a middleman" by having "parallel negotiations" with the French on the fighter jet deal.

A note of the and then Manohar Parrikar's remarks have "nailed the PMO to the wall" telling the most dynamic story of "maleficence and rot" at "the highest echelons" of the NDA government, said

"I have great respect for the august office of the PMO. But, I would regretfully say, the PMO almost behaved like a middleman in this defence transaction. They must answer to our direct charge," told reporters.

He also alleged that Parrikar "avoided responsibility" and "washed his hands off" when the concerns were expressed over the PMO's role in the negotiations.

"Parrikar is a wise man. He knew that there is something rotten and stinking out here and tried to distance himself and he nailed the Prime Minister," Tewari claimed.

There could be no greater "indictment" of the "unwarranted, excessive, indiscreet interference of the PMO" in the deal than what Parrikar's noting brings out, Tewari said.

He said that government's defence in the form of letter of comfort from the French is also an "indictment" of involvement of the PMO in negotiations for deal.

"When do the comfort letters with regard to a procurement process get written to the of If the French PM has written to the PM of India, he has again squarely nailed him because what this letter implies is that in the minds of the French it is the PM of who is negotiating the deal, not the Defence ministry," Tewari stated.

The 2015 note, cited in a media report, had expressed strong objections to the "parallel" negotiations by the PMO.

Nirmala Sitharaman, who dismissed the report in 'The Hindu' newspaper on the internal note, said it ignored the then Manohar Parrikar's reply to file notings of officials.

She said Parrikar had made a note asking officials to remain "calm" as everything was "alright".

Parrikar's handwritten remarks at the bottom of the note said "it appears that PMO and are monitoring the progress of the issue which was an outcome of the summit meeting (between Modi and French in April 2015)".

Para 5, which referred to "parallel discussions" by the PMO, "appears to be an over-reaction", Parrikar wrote, adding may resolve the matter in consultation with to PM.

The also took a dig at Sitharaman, saying she was trying to defend a "bad case", by trying to protect the PMO on the issue.

"She has that weird, hunted look on her face that is when a person is cornered. Actually, I sympathise with her plight -- it's a trying to defend a bad case," he stated.

He said since the has filed a statement that will be listed at some point of time in the Supreme Court, it was hoped by the Congress that the court will take cognizance of the "fact" that there was "parallel negotiation" that was being "pursued" by the PMO and that it was "deliberately hidden" from the apex court.

Tewari sought answer from the PMO over an alleged input given to the regarding and seat of arbitration concerning the deal.

"did not give this input. Officials of PMO conveyed to some gentleman in that is not necessary and not having seat of arbitration in If the did not give this input to PMO then on what basis these assurances were given to whosever in the French government," he asked.

The Congress challenged the BJP government at the Centre to produce any documentary evidence to show that any of the country was ever involved in defence procurement negotiations.

"No amount of spin or propaganda will change the fact that this has done something that has never happened in the last 70 years -- that is negotiating a defence deal behind the back of their own defence ministry, with a foreign government," he charged.

also questioned the role of the then defence secretary, saying he has a lot to answer for regarding the deal.

He accused the NDA government of telling "incessant lies" over the Rafale deal and said the Congress would not let the matter go away.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, February 08 2019. 21:21 IST