‘What is in that Rafale file that the Prime Minister is so scared of?’

The Asian Age.  | Sreeparna Chakrabarty

Opinion, Interview of the Week

This government is gradually becoming a scam-a-day-government with wrong-doing becoming the DNA of Modi rule, says Surjewala.

Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala (Photo: PTI/File)

As the Congress’ communication cell in-charge, Randeep Singh Surjewala has been at the forefront of his party’s campaign on Rafale along with party chief Rahul Gandhi. In an interview to Sreeparna Chakrabarty, he says ‘mum’ is the word as far as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reaction on Rafale is concerned.

New Year began with a focussed attack on the Prime Minister over Rafale. Not the BJP but the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Modi came to power on the promise of “na khaonga na khane doonga”. In four-and-a-half years, his government has become “khaenge aur khilaenge”. Rafale scam is an example of how systematic corruption and institutionalised maleficience has plagued the Modi rule in the last 55 months. Looting of public resources, crony capitalism, bypassing of rules and procedure and removal or stifling of anyone questioning the Prime Minister’s decisions in favour of a select brand of cronies is the culture. That’s why a focussed attack on Rafale corruption has been made by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, asking the government to tell the truth and submit itself to a JPC probe.

It increasingly appears that it is a Rahul vs Modi battle… the Congress president has even challenged the Prime Minister for a one-on-one debate…
The Congress president always plays on the front foot… batting for truth and transparency, both of which are intrinsic for the success of a democracy. For the Congress Party and Rahul Gandhi there are no individualised battles, — these battles are for ensuring accountability, transparency and responsibility, both of governance as also of providing a clean government as the principle Opposition party. Mr Modi has faltered both on governance as also on the accountability quotient. So for us, more than individual styles or individual contests, it is the affixation of responsibility for governance, accountability and transparency that is of paramount importance and that is what the Congress Party and its president are doing.

Do you think the masses are connecting with you on Rafale? What was your feedback, especially during the recent Assembly elections?
Corruption and taint on the Modi government is an issue among the masses, apart from the important issues of rural-agrarian distress, joblessness and GST. Prime Minister Modi has lost the trust of the people. Trust is the foundation of governance. The successive taint on the BJP-ruled state governments and the Centre has marred the capacity to run an accountable and transparent government. From the mining scam in Rajasthan, tender and Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh, PDS in Chattisgarh and Rafale at the national level; the notebandi scam which is indeed the biggest scam of India pioneered and implemented by BJP leaders, the taint on Amit Shah and his son, the questionable dealings of the current railways minister Piyush Goyal, etc. This government is gradually becoming a scam-a-day-government with wrong-doing becoming the DNA of Modi rule.

Political speculation is that the BJP will go to polls with PM Modi as their mascot again. Do you think people are buying “Chowkidar Chor Hai”?
People are saying “Chowkidar Chor Hai”. The BJP’s mascot, Modi, has floundered like “India Shining” floundered in the year 2004. Neither did the duo of Vajpayeeji and Pramod Mahajan believe it until the stunning loss then nor is the Modi-Amit Shah duo ready to accept it until their immediate stunning loss in 2019. Please recollect how both PM Modi and Mr Shah continued to boast that they are going to win all three north Indian states of Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Rajasthan. Even today the Prime Minister is dishonouring the mandate of the people by not accepting defeat and saying we did not lose. Then who lost? Modiji will be rooted out of power based on the fundamental lies that he sold to people of India as dreams, the truth of which has now come out.

Do you expect the Prime Minister to speak on Rafale?
Mum is the word for Modiji when it comes to affixing his own accountability. We least expect such a Prime Minister whose DNA is autocratic to hold himself accountable to Parliament.

Whenever the Congress raises Rafale, the BJP counters it by bringing up Bofors. How do you plan to counter that? The finance minister tore into the Congress over Bofors in Lok Sabha.
You asked a fair question. Mr Jaitley has made a profession out of maligning the Congress on Bofors. But what happened? The court went forward and delivered a verdict that there was not a whisper of corruption or wrong allegation against Rajiv Gandhi or against anyone else. By then, unfortunately, he had been martyred. The current BJP government made the CBI file an appeal in the Supreme Court which was dismissed in November 2018. We dare Mr Jaitley… that what he said inside the Parliament, he should say outside the Parliament and he would go to jail for it.

This week the Congress Party released a tape purportedly of the Goa health minister making a claim about former defence minister and current chief minister Manohar Parrikar on Rafale. How authentic is the tape and do you think it’s fair to drag Mr Parrikar considering his ill-health?
 The Congress has consistently empathised with the health of Mr Parrikar. Bereft of political differences, we wish him well and he should get the best of treatment possible. Some of these conversations and fights were reported in the media on the day of the Cabinet meeting itself. In the same meeting, if the former defence minister, who is now the CM of Goa, tells his colleagues that you can’t remove me as I have the Rafale file in my bedroom in my flat, what does that mean? What is the secret in that Rafale file that the PM is so scared of? Does it not match with the PM’s refusal to order a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe despite the fact that it will have a majority of BJP members? Why then is Mr Modi so scared of showing the Rafale file to the JPC? Does this not prove Mr Parrikar’s point that there are skeletons there which, when they come out, will indict Prime Minister Modi?

Can we expect more such stuff on Rafale to come out before the elections?
 We saw what the HAL chief said, controverting the PM and the defence minister when they rubbished the HAL saying that they cannot make aircraft, they said that every aircraft in India has been made by HAL and we are capable of making third and fourth generation aircraft. We saw what the defence audit wing head said on how PM Modi enhanced the benchmark price from Euro 5 billion to 8.2 billion, causing loss to the exchequer. So everyday some public servant or public authority feeling accountable to the Constitution will come forward and expose the lies about Rafale.