Day after Rafale ‘secrets’ jibe, Rahul Gandhi meets Manohar Parrikar in Goa

In less than 24 hours of targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over Rafale deal with a jibe that Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has “secrets” that “give him power over the PM”, Congress president Rahul Gandhi met the BJP leader at the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) in Panaji on Tuesday.

Later in a Twitter post, the Congress president said, “This morning I visited Goa CM, Manohar Parrikar, to wish him a speedy recovery. It was a personal visit.”

The meeting between Rahul Gandhi, who is on a private visit holidaying in Goa, and Manohar Parrikar, who has been unwell for past several months, for about five minutes. What transpired during the meeting was not immediately known but the development came a day after Rahul Gandhi stepped up attack on PM Modi referring to an alleged audio tape, in which a Goa minister claimed that Parrikar had crucial Rafale deal files with him.

Rahul Gandhi is also believed to have conveyed to the Goa Chief Minister the best wishes on behalf of his mother Sonia Gandhi.

Addressing the media after the visit, Leader of Opposition in the Goa Assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar who accompanied his party president to the meeting with the chief minister said that Rahul Gandhi only inquired about the health of the Chief Minister.

“Our national president Rahul Gandhi was in the state for a few days on a private visit. He called on the Chief Minister in his chamber since he has not been well for quite a while now. He spoke to him for five minutes and inquired about his condition. Upon my request he also met the Congress MLA despite being in a hurry,” Kavlekar said.

When asked whether there was any discussion on the alleged Rafale files Kavlekar replied in the negative. “No, there was nothing like that. It is Rahul’s totally private visit. He only inquired about his health. He told the MLAs said he will make another visit to discuss party related issues. Maybe in the next month,” Kavlekar said.

On Monday, Rahul Gandhi wrote on Twitter, “30 days since the Goa Audio Tapes on RAFALE were released. No FIR or enquiry ordered. No action against the Minister either! It’s obvious that the tapes are authentic & that Goa CM, Parrikar, is in possession of explosive RAFALE secrets, that give him power over the PM.”

Rahul Gandhi was referring to a leaked phone conversation in which Goa’s health minister is heard telling an unnamed person that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar told his cabinet colleagues that he has files related to the contentious Rafale deal in his bedroom.

Rahul Gandhi’s remark came as reaction to Goa minister Vishwajit Rane’s rebuttal of the allegation contained in the audio tape. Rane said, “The audio tape is doctored. The Congress has stooped to such a low level to doctor a tape to create miscommunication between cabinet and the chief minister. Mr Parrikar has never made any reference to Rafale or any documents. I have asked him for a criminal investigation into this.”

Parrikar was the defence minister when Rs 59,000-crore Rafale deal was signed between India and France. The Congress has alleged that Parrikar was not kept in loop before PM Modi announced signing of the defence deal with France.

The Congress has alleged that irregularities happened in the signing of the Rafale deal that benefited a certain businessman, who the party claims is close to PM Modi.

With Opposition hitting out at PM Modi raising questions over the Rafale deal, a big breather came for the government from the Supreme Court in December 2018 when the top court rejected the petition for an independent probe into the Rafale deal.

The Supreme Court had held that due process was followed in finalising the Rafale deal with France. The court also ruled out any “commercial favouritism” in the multi-billion Rafale deal.

The Goa BJP on Monday, in a tweet, had taunted the Congress president asking him to visit the ‘Atal Setu’ the recently inaugurated third longest cable-stayed bridge during his stay in the state. “Dear Shri @RahulGandhi, we have come to learn that you are currently on a vacation in Goa. We request you along with all Congress MLAs to visit the Atal Setu, the 3rd longest cable stayed-bridge in India over river Mandovi and witness how @BJP4India is #TransformingIndia,” BJP Goa tweeted.

The bridge, which connects the state capital to the suburb of Panaji, was inaugurated amid much fanfare on Sunday.

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