Manohar Parrikar was Union Defence Minister when the Rafale deal was signed between India and France
The Congress today claimed to have an audio recording of a Goa minister quoting Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar as saying that files related to the Rafale jet deal were "in his bedroom" and asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi whether that was why his government was not allowing a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) inquiry.
Manohar Parrikar was Union Defence Minister when the deal for 36 Rafale jets was signed between India and France. He has been chief minister of his native state Goa since March 2017. In recent months, he has been severely unwell, battling a pancreatic condition, which has spurred calls for his replacement.
The Congress claimed that Mr Parrikar had said at a meeting of the Goa cabinet that no one could remove him as "all the Rafale papers are in my flat, in my bedroom". Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane is on tape relating this conversation, claimed Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala shortly before the jet deal was to be discussed in parliament.
Mr Surjewala played an audio tape, the authenticity of which cannot be verified by NDTV, in which Vishwajit Rane is apparently talking to an unknown person about a three-hour cabinet meeting and saying "keep it confidential".
A voice said to be Mr Rane's says that the chief minister "made a very interesting statement, that I have all the information of Rafale in my bedroom". The other person is heard reacting: "What are you saying!" To which, the minister says: "…You can cross-check with somebody you are close to in the cabinet. This is something he said, that means he is holding them to ransom…He said it is in my bedroom here only in my flat, each and every document on Rafale."
The Rafale deal was a 36 jets' deal signed between India and France
Mr Surjewala told reporters: "Former Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has all the files relating to Rafale jet deal. The fashion in which every procedure was bypassed…it is all recorded in the files. Those files are with Mr Parrikar. Why are those files being hidden? We want the truth."
The audio tape is "doctored", minister Vishwajit Rane told reporters, saying, "Mr Parrikar has never made any reference to Rafale or any documents. Have asked him for a criminal investigation into this."
The Supreme Court last month cleared the government of allegations linked to the Rafale deal. The court said there was no reason to doubt the decision-making process, delivering a huge reprieve to the government amid Congress allegations of corruption in the Rs. 59,000-crore contract.
The court rejected a probe and dismissed petitions that had alleged that the government had gone for an overpriced deal to help industrialist Anil Ambani's company bag an offset contract with jet-maker Dassault. "There is no evidence of commercial favouritism to any private entity," the court had said.
Former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, along with advocate Prashant Bhushan, today requested the Supreme Court to review its December 14 decision.
On Tuesday, in an interview to news agency ANI, PM Modi had said on Congress president Rahul Gandhi's repeated attacks on Rafale: "This is not an allegation against me personally, but an allegation against my government. If there is any allegation against me personally, let them dig who gave what, when and where and to whom."
Referring to the Supreme Court clean chit, the Prime Minister also said: "Those people who want to weaken the army are making such allegations. Should I worry that they are making personal attacks on me, or whether my country's needs should be met?"