Congress President-Elect Rahul Gandhi, along with state in-charge Ashok Gehlot, and Arjun Modhwadia, in Gujarat, on December 12, 2017. (Photograph: PTI)

Modi Removed CBI Chief Because He Was ‘Scared’ About Rafale, Says Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi today accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of removing the Central Bureau of Investigation’s chief in the middle of the night because he was scared the agency was about to start probing the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Gandhi had made a similar allegation on Wednesday when he began his two-day trip in poll-bound Rajasthan.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had already called the allegations "rubbish" which suggested that the CBI director Alok Verma was sent on leave because he wanted to investigate the Rafale deal.

On Thursday, talking to the Mahila Congress workers in Kota and at a rally in Sikar, Gandhi brought up the Rafale deal and the CBI. He also mocked the prime minister over an earlier remark that he wanted to be the country's watchman against corruption.

“ The watchman did something new. It was not done in the daytime, but when people of the country were sleeping,” he said, referring to the government’s CBI decision.

I feel sad that one watchman has defamed all watchmen of the country. These watchmen are not at fault as they are working honestly. We are talking about an individual who had asked to be made a 'chowkidar' rather than the prime minister, Gandhi said at the 'Maha Sankalp' rally in Sikar district.

The CBI was going to start an inquiry and therefore the prime minister got scared and removed the CBI chief at 1 am in the night, Gandhi said in Kota.

Gandhi repeated the allegation that Prime Minister Modi paved the way for Anil Ambani's Reliance Group to bag a Rafale-related offset deal. Both the government and the Reliance Group have earlier rejected the charges. Gandhi pushed for the participation of more women across various levels in the Congress, saying he would like half of his party's chief ministers to be women in the next five to seven years.

Gandhi also mentioned the sacrifices of Army jawans from the state's Shekhawati region, linking them again to the fighter deal with France and the alleged favouritism towards the Reliance Group. He repeated the Congress allegation that the Rafale jets were being procured at a much higher price than what was being negotiated while the UPA government was in power.

Also read: Is Government Right To Send CBI Director Alok Verma On Leave? Sanjay Hegde, Vineet Narain, MN Singh Debate

He claimed the Defence Ministry and the Indian Air Force were not consulted.

The defence ministry and the IAF worked for years on the contract. But the prime minister, without asking the defence minister or the defence ministry or the IAF, changed the contract of Rs 30,000 crore, he said.

A late-night order on Tuesday from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet led by the prime minister, was sent to Verma and CBI Special Director Rakesh Asthana. Jaitley said on Wednesday that the government's decision to remove the CBI's two top officers was based on the Central Vigilance Commission's recommendations.

Also read: CBI Crisis Deepens As Director Alok Verma Sent On Leave, Moves Supreme Court