New Delhi: The BJP on Thursday reacted sharply to Rahul Gandhi's press conference where the Congress president had once again raked up the Rafale deal and harped on the Anil Ambani connection. If Gandhi called Prime Minister Narendra Modi "corrupt", BJP fielded Sambit Patra to brand Rahul as a "liar". 

The Congress's attack on the BJPs star campaigner hit them hard and soon it was not about specifics but rhetoric.

Patra did not lose a moment of his press conference to allege that Rahul Gandhi, the Congress president, hailed from a "family of middlemen". The gloves were off and the battle lines were drawn. Patra went on to allege that the Nehru-Gandhis were playing a dangerous game with national security. The BJP spokesman said that the Congress's first family earned from defence deals under the Congress-led UPA regime.

The BJP upped the ante against Congress over the Rafale controversy, quoting from Wikileaks revelations that former Prime Minister and Rahul Gandhi’s father Rajiv Gandhi had played the “official middleman” in the 1970s in a defence deal involving SAAB-Scania aircraft sale to India.

Gandhi had claimed earlier in the day that former French President Francois Hollande and sitting French head of state Macron had both raised questions about the integrity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Patra ripped into Gandhi’s allegations, borrowing a term from Union finance minister Arun Jaitley's vocabulary. Patra said, "The Clown Prince has held another press conference today, which has become a habit for him... He is trying to make a political career by spreading lies."

“A few days ago," Patra said, "Air Chief Marshall BS Dhanoa had said about Rafale that it will be a game changer. Rahul Gandhi says just the opposite of what the air force chief says. Now who is to be believed?”

“Some people, at the behest of the Congress, went to the Supreme Court to file a PIL over Rafale. This was not a public interest litigation, rather political interest litigation. The SC refused to entertain the PIL. The PIL had demanded that SC inquire into the pricing of the aircraft. The second submission was the deal should be scrapped. The SC said they did not need to go into pricing, nor wanted any answers about technicalities,” Patra added.

“When the clown prince, who claims to have so many damning documents, why does he not go to the court? You go to the CVC in the morning, to the CAG in the afternoon, and then hold a press conference. Why don’t you go to the Supreme Court? Don’t you have trust in the SC?” Patra challenged Gandhi.

“The air chief is wrong, the SC is wrong, only Rahul Gandhi is right,” Patra said, adding that Gandhi was “telling lies after lies.”

“He said that the former President of France Francois Hollande told him that the Prime Minister of India was corrupt. I challenge from this high pulpit of the BJP, to produce any piece of document in which he has claimed thus,” Patra said.

Patra said Gandhi had “no factual knowledge about anything”.

“Only one person in the country has the guts to lie after being caught in one. He is Rahul Gandhi. Today he claimed that President Emmanuel Macron raised issues about the integrity of our PM in the secrecy clause. If one reminisces, he had said in the well of Parliament that Macron had whispered in his ears that there was no secrecy clause at all and that he could tell the world about it. Just hours later the French government had issued a letter saying Rahul Gandhi was lying,” the BJP spokesperson said.

Calling Gandhi “shameless”, Patra said, “We had also held a PC and asked you about your family. What is the relation between Sanjay Bhandari and family’s son in law Robert Vadra and Rafale? Why did he get for Vadra a house in London worth Rs 19 crore.”

“Yet they hold a 4-5 minute long PC everyday and spew lies. The entire Gandhi family is corrupt. The son and mother are out on bail and less said the better of the thievery of Robert Vadra,” Patra said.

“He also said today that our PM is the PM of Ambanis. The 15 industrialists that you keep talking about, have become rich in your regime and under the patronage of your family, not ours. Was you father Rajiv Gandhi the PM of Quattrocchi?

“Quattrocchi came to India with Sonia Gandhi. Even before the marriage. He had a significant role to play in India. A special emissary was sent by Sonia Gandhi to get his account de-freezed in the Bofors controversy even as SC had decreed that de-freezing must not happen at any cost. Was Rajiv Gandhi, the PM, server and PM to Quattrocchi?” Patra said.

“Recently a story which was carried by most was that Rajiv Gandhi played the middleman for Swedish SAAB-Scania’s Wiggen aircraft which it was selling to India in 1970. He was an official middleman in the deal. You come from the family of middlemen. Being a middleman is very important in your family as your family has profited from every defence deal in India prior to 2014,” he added.

Enthused by Patra's press conference, several BJP leaders, ministers and supporters of the party hit Twitter with the hashtag #GappuPappu. The party's official handle joined the trending business.

At the time of reporting, #GappuPappu was the fourth most popular trend on Twitter.