Month: February 2018

Place: Saundatti, Karnataka

Person: Rahul Gandhi

What did he say: "Defence minister Goa mein tha, machhi ki dukan mein machhi khareed raha tha... usko pata bhi nahi tha ke Modi Ji ne Rafale ka contract badal dia." (The defence minister was in Goa, in a fish shop buying fish...he didn't even know PM Modi changed the Rafale deal.)

Fast forward to a year: The Rafale issue being debated in the Lok Sabha.

Month: January 2, 2018

Place: Lok Sabha

Person: Rahul Gandhi

What he said: “Daal mein kuch kala nai hai. Daal hi kaali hai... I want to play audio between the health minister of Goa."

Parrikar's role in Rafale

Well, that was Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who wanted to play a purported audio conversation between Goa health minister Viswajit Rane and another individual. In the audio clip, Rane is purportedly heard to be claiming that Goa CM Manohar Parrikar allegedly told Rane that the Goa CM has all Rafale files in his bedroom.

Today, the audio file was released by Congress media head Randeep Surjewala at 10 am, and later tried to be replayed inside the House when Gandhi was given a precondition that he has to authenticate the audio before playing.

As the Rafale row was debated in the floor of the House, political rhetoric peaked over pointed facts. And an insinuation was made that Parrikar was well aware of the 'deal' and now is holding the BJP to ransom, with the files in his disposition.

Now, the BJP claims that it is a sharp U-turn from Gandhi's earlier stand that Parrikar had no knowledge of the deal. BJP IT cell chief Amit Malviya released an old video where Rahul is heard saying, "Parrikar or Arun Jaitley didn't sign Rafale contract. It is Narendra Modi who signed it and the entire effort is to protect him."

In the audio vs video war of the BJP and Congress, one thing that is beyond doubt is that the Congress that projects Parrikar as the know-it-all person of Rafale secrets, courtesy an audio conversation, was earlier projected by the same party as a defense minister who was clueless about Rafale deal. In fact, the common refrain of the Congress during the Karnataka election campaign was: "Defense minister was buying fish as Rafale deal was signed."

Viswajit Rane disowns leak

But is Rahul Gandhi speaking the truth? Rane has written a letter to Parrikar, that is in possession of MyNation, and it completely denies the claims and insinuations made by Gandhi and the Congress, at large. He wrote, "At no point in time there has been a discussion between me and any other individual. There should be a thorough inquiry in this matter and I would like to once again inform the honorable chief minister that there is someone playing mischief." Now, even the person who is said to be the protagonist of the conversation has outrightly dismissed the allegation and has sought an inquiry.

No automatic alt text available.

Repackaging Macron story

After a complete about-turn on the defense minister's knowledge about the Rafale deal, and being disowned by Rane, what's been significant in today's Rafale discourse was that Gandhi once again reiterated the purported 'personal conversation' between him, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and French premier Emmanuel Macron.  The only problem is that Macron too had earlier denied to have been a part of any such conversation, then leaving the grand old party embarrassed.

Another thing that is pretty clear is that this is not the last we have heard on Rafale controversy, and this is increasingly becoming a political blame game, rather than a debate on the nuances of an alleged scam. But in the process, the country is left asking for more credibility to the nature of discourse than political showmanship.