Conspiracy In Making: Rahul Gandhi Provokes Manohar Parrikar

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday issued a detailed denial under attack for allegedly extracting political mileage from a courtesy visit to Manohar Parrikar. Mr Gandhi said he has divulged nothing of their latest discussions – what he said was in “public domain”. He said he also “empathized” with Mr Parrikar, whose sharp letter criticizing him was written “under immense pressure”.

Alleging that Mr Parrikar’s letter was “leaked” to the media before it reached him, Mr Gandhi said it had “forced” him to “clarify my position on this unfortunate and unnecessary controversy”.

On Thursday, Mr Gandhi had visited Mr Parrikar, who is battling a pancreatic ailment. In the evening, and later on Wednesday, Mr Gandhi said he had “discussions” with the Goa Chief Minister, who, before the state assignment, was handling the defence portfolio at the Centre.

“Parrikar-ji told me that when the deal was changed, the Prime Minister did not get the country’s defence minister on board,” Mr Gandhi said during a party meeting at Delhi’s Talkatora stadium today.

Within a few hours, Mr Parrikar wrote to the Congress chief, accusing him of lying. The Rafale fighter jet deal, he wrote, had not even come up during their private conversation, Mr Parrikar wrote.

“Paying a courtesy visit and then stooping so low as to make a false statement for petty political gain has raised, in my mind, questions about the sincerity and purpose of your visit,” wrote Mr Parrikar, adding such tactics should not be adopted against a person “fighting a life-threatening illness”.  The 63-year-old, who looked frail, had turned up at the state assembly to present the budget today.

Mr Gandhi said it was a fact that in April 2015, while the minister was “inaugurating a fish market in Goa”, PM Modi announced the Rafale deal in France.

“It is also a fact that you clearly stated to the press that you had no idea about the new deal engineered by the PM. This has been widely reported in all sections of the media,” Mr Gandhi wrote.

He also alluded to an audio tape that purportedly had the Chief Minister claiming to have Rafale documents in his “bed room”, “implying that you have power over PM Modi and his cronies,” Mr Gandhi wrote.

“I understand the immense pressure you are under after our meeting yesterday,” Mr Gandhi wrote. “Pressure that has forced you to take the highly unusual step of demonstrating your loyalty to the PM and his cronies by attacking me in this uncharacteristic manner,” the Congress chief added.

Congress Will Go Alone in Andhra

There will be no Grand Alliance of Congress and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh as the sources say. The two parties had jointly contested recent Assembly elections in Telangana but faced crushing defeat.

The Congress party in Andhra Pradesh has decided to go alone in the ensuing simultaneous elections to the State Assembly and Lok Sabha. Oommen Chandy, the party’s central leader in-charge of party affairs in Andhra, said that the Congress had decided to contest all 175 Assembly and 25 Lok Sabha seats.

TDP, which is the ruling party in Andhra Pradesh, was also ambiguous on whether it would contest the coming elections in the State in alliance with the Congress party.

“I am connected with AICC not TDP or its leader Chandrababu Naidu. We will inform the high command and get permission,” was Chandy’s reply when asked if he conveyed the decision to Naidu. He said the decision for an alliance with TDP in Telangana was taken by the party’s central leadership.

The former Kerala Chief Minister said the party also decided to form all committees including election committee as per AICC directions.

“We have to nominate seven committees. We will give list of members to AICC this week itself,” he said.

He also announced that a meeting of all-party conveners of Assembly and Lok Sabha constituencies will meet on January 31 to discuss and finalise everything related to elections.

When asked if the party would find candidates to contest the elections, Chandy claimed that many people were ready to contest.

“I cannot say. People will decide,” he said when asked as to how many seats Congress would win.

In 2014, Congress had drawn a blank in both Assembly and Lok Sabha polls. He, however, believes that the situation had now changed, and people of Andhra Pradesh have full faith in Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s promise to give special category status to the State.

Chandy said all leaders of the party under leadership of State Congress President Raghuveera Reddy would take out bus yatra in all 13 districts in February.

Sitharaman Backlashed At Rahul Gandhi For Demanding Resignation

Targeting Political barbs at the incumbent Union Defence Minister, Opposition President Rahul Gandhi had strangled the throat of the ruling party by bringing the Rs. 1 lakh crore for defence manufacturer Hindustan Aeronautics Limited into limelight and asking for justification or resignation, incase she fails to present fathomable justification.

Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today suggested that Rahul Gandhi had jumped the gun. The Congress chief, the minister said, should “start from ABCs” and “read the full report” before commenting on it. In her exhaustive reply to the debate on Rafale fighter jet deal in Parliament on Friday, Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had rebutted Congress claims of the government depriving the state-run HAL to benefit Anil Ambani’s rookie defence firm.

Quoting the report, Mr Gandhi had tweeted: “When you tell one lie, you need to keep spinning out more lies, to cover up the first one. In her eagerness to defend the PM’s Rafale lie, the RM lied to Parliament. Tomorrow, RM must place before Parliament documents showing 1 Lakh crore of Govt orders to HAL.”

The orders, she said were in the pipeline. The projects are being cleared in phases – they have been cleared by the Acceptance of Necessity and the Defence Acquisition Committee stages.

Currently HAL is working on repeat orders for Su-30s, Tejas Mk-1, Advanced Light Helicopters, Light Combat Helicopters and the Mirage 2000 upgrade. Media reports have claimed HAL, grappling with low finances, had to borrow money to pay its employees’ salaries.

In a tweet today, senior Congress leader Randeep Surjewala said: “The Lying Defence Minister’s Lies Gets Exposed! Def Min claimed that procurement orders worth Rs. 1 Lakh Cr provided to HAL! HAL says Not a SINGLE PAISA has come, as Not a SINGLE ORDER has been signed! For the first time, HAL forced to take a loan of Rs. 1000 Cr to pay salaries!”

The Congress has accused the government of accepting an overpriced contract to buy 36 Rafale jets from Dassault to benefit Anil Ambani’s rookie defence firm. During last week’s debate, Rahul Gandhi had repeated his allegation that the NDA government gypped the country of Rs. 30,000 crore by ensuring Mr Ambani gets the offset contract in the Rafale deal.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani Asked Congress President Rahul Gandhi to Step Down

Scoffing the Congress President Rahul Gandhi for “misleading the nation” on Rafale deal, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani castigated Gandhi while addressing a press conference here, Rupani said Gandhi made the issue concerning national security a tool to grind the Narendra Modi government.

The chief minister was speaking as part of the BJP’s move to hold press conferences in 70 cities across the country to attack the opposition party against the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s verdict on the Rafale jet deal last week. “Even if all thieves come together and call the chowkidar a thief, the people will not accept it,” Rupani told reporters here, referring to Gandhi’s barb against the prime minister.

Rupani said only “those who are afraid of the ‘chowkidar’ make repeated noise about thieves. But, the people know the truth”. “The Supreme Court judgement is a slap on the face of the Congress and those misleading the nation. Now, Gandhi should quit as the president of the Congress for misleading the nation,” Rupani said.

The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the pleas challenging the deal between India and France for procurement of 36 Rafale jets, saying there was no occasion to “really doubt the decision making the process” warranting setting aside of the contract.

The Congress has repeatedly criticised the deal for the 36 Rafale jets, alleging that the government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalised by the UPA government.

The government has, however, denied any irregularity in the deal. Rupani also came down heavily on Gandhi for raising questions over the deal even after the apex court held that there were no irregularities in it.

The Gujarat chief minister said there should be no doubt on the decision-making process in the procurement of Rafale jets from France. “We are ready for a debate on the issue. After the Supreme Court made it clear that there is no irregularity, there should be no question of a probe into the matter,” Rupani said.

DMK President MK Stalin Backs Rahul Gandhi As the Apt Candidate for Prime Ministerial Job

Targeting political barbs at the BJP stealthily, DMK president MK Stalin felicitated Congress’s triumph in the recent Lok Sabha elections and postulated another victory in store for the Opposition front in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election 2019.

Positioning Gandhi as the apt candidate for the post of Prime Minister, Stalin unequivocally professed, Rahul Gandhi for PM “is the right thing to unite secular forces.’

“Rahul was responsible for Congress victory in the three BJP bastions. We require a strong leadership to coordinate democratic forces. That’s why I have proposed Rahul’s name. I am confident our allies would understand,” he said.

Stalin’s sudden proclamation, which he first made in the presence of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi at the unveiling of M Karunanidhi’s statue in Chennai, has not found many takers in the opposition camp which has struggled so far to forge an anti-BJP bloc before 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which has been on good terms with other opposition parties but has not shown the same warmth for Congress, said any decision on a prime ministerial candidate should be taken at a meeting of opposition parties after the general election results.

“Not only TMC, but also other opposition parties are of the opinion that any decision on the PM candidate should be taken only after the Lok Sabha election results. Any announcement on the PM candidate right now would be premature as it would divide the opposition camp,” a senior TMC leader told media on condition of anonymity.

Sharad Pawar’s NCP, too, said there was no need for an immediate debate on the PM candidate. “The Congress itself has declared that it will be decided after the election results,” NCP national spokesperson Nawab Malik said.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh, DMK president MK Stalin, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Loktantrik Janata Dal chief Sharad Yadav and other opposition leaders head to Ashok Gehlot’s swearing-in ceremony in Jaipur on Monday.

“A number of opposition leaders are understood to have reservations against naming anyone as the prime ministerial face. The SP, TDP, BSP, TMC, and NCP disagree with Stalin’s announcement. It is premature. The PM name is to be decided only after the Lok Sabha results,” PTI quoted another top opposition leader as saying.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram had earlier maintained that the party never “officially” said its president Rahul Gandhi should be the prime minister if an opposition alliance formed the next government. The decision on who would be the prime minister in the event of an opposition alliance winning next year’s Lok Sabha poll will be taken by its constituents, he had said.

Top leaders of 21 Opposition parties, barring the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party, had met in New Delhi last week and vowed to forge a united front to fight and defeat the BJP in the 2019 general election. The BJP had mocked the meet and said they should first declare a prime ministerial candidate before thinking of ousting the Modi government.

Gandhi Likely to Announce Rajasthan CM Today

Ashok Gehlot or Sachin Pilot? Who will grab the top seat of Rajasthan, is likely to be announced today as Congress President Rahul Gandhi is likely to hold a fresh round of discussions on Friday with Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, the two chief ministerial aspirants in Rajasthan, before taking a final call for the top post.

The decision of Rajasthan’s next chief minister is likely to be taken before noon and will be made public at a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) in state capital Jaipur, sources said.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi may take a final decision on the CM post of Rajasthan at around 11 am today. The decision is likely to come after a meeting with Sachin Pilot who has left his residence to meet Gandhi. The decision could come anytime after 11 AM, according to television reports.

Raje submitted her resignation after the BJP was voted out in the December 7 assembly elections. A new Congress government is yet to be sworn in with the party yet to pick a chief minister.

“Rahul Gandhi needs some more time for deliberations and a final decision. No meeting (has been scheduled) for tomorrow. In the morning there will be a decision,” Venugopal told reporters in New Delhi after meeting the Congress chief last evening.

Senior Congress leader and Rajasthan observer KC Venugopal said that there would be a final decision on who would assume the office of chief minister in Rajasthan today morning, reports ANI.

While Ashok Gehlot is learnt to be leading the race for chief minister’s post, Sachin Pilot is also putting up stiff resistance and is staking his claim.

Pilot visited Rahul Gandhi’s residence again late in night yesterday amid speculation on whether the race was still open and could go down to the wire. The party president also met the central observer for the state K C Venugopal and the AICC state in-charge Avinash Pande for the second time.

Smriti Irani Countered Rahul Gandhi’s Chase for Ram Temple

Adjoining the fray of BJP ministers targeting Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for his hasty pursuit of Ram Temple’s judgement and the ruling government’s comments on this union minister Smriti Irani  alleged that, “Rahul Gandhi, who used to say Hindus were terrorists, is now defining Hindutva.”

“Attention seeker”, “confused Gandhi” and “Hindu by political consideration” are some of the remarks countered by BJP leader to Congress scion.

Ms Irani, who was recently asked about her gotra on Twitter amid a raging debate around Rahul Gandhi’s Hindu identity, revisited the issue and said, “Woh Rahul Gandhi jo Madhya Pradesh mein yeh nahi jante the ki unka gotra kya hai aaj Narendra Modi ko samjhayenge ki Hindu dharm kya hai? Woh aaj certificate denge ki Hindu kaun hai? (Rahul Gandhi, who didn’t know his gotra in Madhya Pradesh, will now tell Narendra Modi about Hinduism? Will he give certificates to Hindus?).”

“Gotra” refers to a clan or descendants from a common ancestor.

The Congress president had said that PM Modi does not understand the foundation of Hinduism. “What is the essence of Hinduism? What does the Gita say? That knowledge is with everybody… Knowledge is all around you. Every living being has knowledge. Our prime minister says he is a Hindu, but he doesn’t understand (the) foundation of Hinduism. What kind of a Hindu is he?” Mr Gandhi said during an event in Udaipur.

The Congress is now preaching us about Hinduism… They are giving us lessons of Gita, BJP national president Amit Shah had hit back.

He must have made that statement to draw attention, Ms Irani mocked. “Because few people turned up for his event, so he had to say something to grab media’s attention,” she said in Udaipur.

Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj also roasted Rahul Gandhi and his party for their “confusion over his religion”.

“For years, Congress president Rahul Gandhi presented himself as a secular leader. However, as elections approached, his party men realised that Hindus form a majority in India and hence created his Hindu image. Sometimes, Gandhi is seen as a Shiv bhakt and at other times he is a loyal Hindu and then he presents himself as a janeudhari brahmin,” Ms Swaraj said.

A confused personality like Rahul Gandhi now says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi doesn’t understand the meaning of being Hindu, she said.

The foreign minister quipped she will pray that the day never comes when they have to learn from Rahul Gandhi what it means to be a Hindu.

“The problem of Rahul Gandhi is that he is a confused Gandhi. He is not a Hindu by commitment. He is a Hindu by political consideration,” Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Congress Slams GDP Slackening Growth Data of UPA Regime; Calls It BJP’s Desperate Move to Undermine UPA’s Success

The re-estimated data of GDP growth under UPA regime manifests slackening trends which incited Congress; which claimed that the “false” data is BJP’s desperate attempt to undermine the growth momentum of UPA government ahead of Lok Sabha elections 2019.

The government on Wednesday re-estimated the GDP linked to 2011-12 prices, which lowered the growth rates during the UPA regime.

The back series data from 2004-05 to 2011-12 showed that GDP growth rate in 2011-12 has been revised down to 5.2 per cent from the previous 6.6 per cent expansion which was based on the 2004-05 base year. Similarly, growth for 2010-11 has been pared to 8.5 per cent from the earlier 10.3 per cent under the old series.

The base year is revised periodically to reflect the changes taking place in the economy. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) back series data is in sharp contrast to the numbers released by a panel on real sector statistics set up by the National Statistical Commission.

The report by the panel headed by Sudipto Mundle, emeritus professor at the National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, had shown that the economy had grown by 10.8 per cent in 2010-11.

But the government had said the data provided by the panel was “not official,” triggering a war of words with the opposition party. The Congress was quick to criticise the latest CSO numbers.

“Modi government and its puppet Niti Aayog want the people to believe that 2+2=8! Such is the gimmickry, jugglery, trickery and chickanery being sold as “back series data,” the party said in a statement.

In the run-up to the 2019 general elections a sharp political debate has erupted over the Modi government’s handling of the economy and the latest data is expected to trigger sharp responses from both sides. Following the new data, the average growth during the 10 years of UPA works out to 6.8 per cent while the NDA’s four-rule has seen average growth of 7.3 per cent.

A senior government official said it was only fair that the growth rate in the previous years is re-estimated using the 2011-12 prices when the current growth rates are being based on this data.

The back series data was released after it had been checked for its methodological soundness by leading statistical experts in the country. Government think tank NITI Aayog had organised two round tables in which domain experts participated to ensure the quality of coverage and methodology.

“The new data released today by CSO for 2004-05–2011-12 based on 2011-12 base year is significant improvement both for coverage and methodology. The new series, with its supporting back series, is internationally comparable and is in sync with UN Standard National Account,” Niti Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar said. Kumar said it was distressing to read the Congress statement. ”

Chief statistician Pravin Srivastava said the new methodology adopted for the data was robust and globally comparable. The statistics office had released the new series of national accounts, revising the base year from 2004-05 to 2011-12 in January 2015.

Congress Fulminated Against Eric Trappier’s Defence of BJP, Said CEO’s Statement “Manufactured Lies”

The scuffle between Centre and Opposition over Rafale is thickening day by day as the Opposition leader Rahul Gandhi refused to accredit CEO Eric Trappier’s words exonerating BJP of charges cronyism in the proceedings of the deal.

A day before Trappier’s statement gave a clean chit to the Centre which has been constantly accused of favoring its crony- Reliance Industries in getting the offset deal. Trappier claimed that the decision was entirely taken on suo moto cognizance of Dassault and Modi government had no role to play in it.

Despite the statement, Gandhi sense some conspiracy in the Rafale deal and termed the statement of French Aviation company’s CEO as a heave of “manufactured lies” mired in international conspiracy.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Congress chief’s failed politics was compelling him to resort to “falsehood” and “petty hair-splitting” to make the sensitive Rafale deal controversial.

His Cabinet colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said Trappier’s claims had in fact “exposed all the lies” of Gandhi whose behaviour, he alleged, had become increasingly irresponsible and oblivious to India’s security needs.

Congress leaders Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala joined Gandhi in accusing the government of a “cover-up”, hours after Dassault CEO Eric Trappier rebutted the party’s allegations.

Surjewala said the nation needs a “fair investigation” and not “doctored explanations” on the fighter jet deal, referring to comments by Trappier during a media interview that there was no corruption in the deal, as alleged by the Opposition party.

Trappier’s interview came a day before the Supreme Court is scheduled to examine the government’s submission on the decision-making process and pricing details relating to the deal.

Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari alleged the government, through its affidavit in apex court, was trying to “conceal more than it reveals”. “Both former French President and the CEO of Dassault are from France. Let people judge who is lying and who is telling the truth,” said Tewari wondering if Dassault CEO had nothing to hide why was he resistant to declaring the price at which Rafale jets were negotiated during the Congress led UPA regime and the price at which the BJP-led NDA government finally paid for each aircraft. “You cannot say you are not lying when you have not even declared the price of the aircraft,” Tewari said.

On its Twitter handle, the party said: “The government’s submission to Supreme Court on the Rafale scam makes it clear they did not take the basic steps fundamental to defence procurement. PM Modi’s corruption is crystal clear.”

The Centre on Monday informed the SC that the Defence Procurement Procedure as laid out by the UPA in 2013 was “completely followed” in procuring 36 jets from France and the deal was subsequently approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security.

Modi ji has admitted to his theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit, he admitted to changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and put Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani’s pocket. —Rahul Gandhi, Congress President on twitter.