Rafale deal not govt-to-govt pact, says Kapil Sibal

The Congress on Wednesday alleged that the deal is not a “government-to-government” pact between India and France as is being suggested by the government.

It said the Centre should not have signed the contract with Dassault alleging that it was a “non-complaint” vendor as it had not given assurances on aircraft quality and on man-hours required for manufacture of the jets.

The Congress, however, did not ask the government to scrap the contract.

Addressing a press conference, senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal claimed France has never done a government-to-government contract on defence. “This is not a government to government contract. Dassault should make a public statement if they ever had a Government to Government contract prior to this. In fact, there is no such procedure in France,” he said.

“In this case… the people who negotiated the deal were Dassault representatives along with Eric Trappier himself…. That is on the side of Dassault and on the Indian side Ministry of Defence and Air Force officials negotiated the deal. The only thing that happened was that the Government of France gave a confirmation letter. The negotiations were done by Dassault. How could it be a Government to Government contract?” he asked.

Sibal claimed Dassault was a non-compliant vendor.

“In the bid that Dassault gave, it provided the number of hours to be taken for manufacture of 108 aircraft…. The HAL had opposed that figure and said the man hours that you are claiming is wrong…. It had said it will take almost three times the number of man-hours. Actually the exact is 2.74. Dassault was asked to back its claim by providing an affidavit or an undertaking. Dassault refused to give either the affidavit or the undertaking and under Government of India procedures Dassault became non-complaint.

“Had they given the total number of hours, it would have been L-2. Therefore, they did not give that affidavit. Once it became non-compliant, Government of India cannot have any contract with Dassault,” he said.

He said the government had also asked Dassault to take “full responsibility for the production, quality and performance of the 108 aircraft” but it flatly refused.

Source: Indian Express

Modi Compromised National Security, Hiked Prices of Rafale Jet Deal to Favor Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence: Congress

The Congress on Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had enhanced and hiked the benchmark price for for the Rafale fighter jet deal from 5.2 billion Euros to 8.2 billion Euros and discarded objections by one of his own ministries on the sovereign guarantee issue.

It said the “entire spectrum of deception” on the deal “lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister”, The Indian Express claimed in a report.

The CPI(M), too, hit out at the government demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into the deal.

The Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala claimed that the negotiating team had “a serious dispute” on the benchmark price, which was referred to the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Manohar Parrikar refused to hike prices of Rafale

“Parrikar as also the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) headed by the Defence Minister and the chiefs of the three armed forces also didn’t agree and could not decide on the higher benchmark price of € 8.2 Billion. So DAC referred it to Cabinet Committee on Security (CSS) headed by the Prime Minister. PM Modi as the head of the CCS accepted the higher benchmark price without any negotiations or inquiry. Why did the Prime Minister set a higher benchmark price,” Sujrewala asked.

The Law Ministry had on December 9, 2015 “flagged the issue of “No Bank Guarantee/ Sovereign Guarantee” by the French Government and noted the concern that the contract involves huge payouts from the public exchequer without actual delivery in the form of advance payments.

The then Defence Minister Parikkar, Surjewala claimed, had in March 2016 refused to “opine of accepting the Letter of Comfort in lieu of bank-French government guarantee. The Air Acquisition Wing of the Defence Ministry, on the other hand, had put up a note in August of that year stating that “Bank Guarantees may be insisted from French side as required under our procedure and Indian side may bear the Bank Guarantee charges.”

Modi Waved Off Bank Guarantee

He said the Law Ministry reiterated its view and conveyed it again to the Defence Ministry on August 24, but the “very next day, PM Modi as head of the CCS accepted the ‘Letter of Comfort’ and waived off the condition of ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government Sovereign Guarantee’.”

“Why did PM Modi compromise national interests by waiving the Bank Guarantee/French Government’s Sovereign Guarantee’ in violation of Defence Procurement Procedure?” he asked. The Congress has alleged that all this was done only to favour one company Reliance Defence which is headed by Anil Ambani and levelled charges of crony capitalism on the BJP Central Govt.

On Wednesday, Attorney General K K Venugopal had told the Supreme Court no “sovereign guarantee” was given by the French government but it had issued a “letter of comfort” that was good enough to be “governmental guarantee”, according to a report in The Hindu.

Defence Minister Parrikar refused to accept Letter of Comfort

Sujrewala also claimed that Mr. Parrikar had refused to accept the “letter of comfort” in place of a sovereign/bank guarantee and cited an August 18, 2016 note in which the Air Acquisition wing of the Defence Ministry stated, “Bank Guarantees may be insisted from French side as required under our procedure and Indian side may bear the Bank Guarantee charges”.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government’s own admission in the Supreme Court that there is no sovereign guarantee from the French government but only a letter of comfort which is not legally enforceable to ensure the delivery of this high-value contract was sensational.

with inputs from The Hindu & Indian Express

Dassault paid Anil Ambani Rs 284 crore as kickback: Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that French jet maker Dassault Aviation paid kickbacks to Indian industrialist Anil Ambani who bagged the offset contract in the 36 Rafale aircraft deal in April 2015.

Addressing his sixth press conference on the matter at AICC headquarters, Gandhi said Dassault CEO claims Ambani got the offset contract because he had the land for the company but “he lied”.

“It turns out Dassault invested Rs 284 crore in Anil Ambani’s company worth Rs 8.30 lakh valuation. It was with this money that Ambani bought the land needed for the company. Dassault CEO is lying and the question is why he paid this amount to a loss making firm? This is the first tranche of kickbacks given to Anil Ambani by Dassault and this is clear as day,” Gandhi alleged.

On a query about the government saying everything is above board in the deal, Gandhi said HAL had more land than Ambani but was sidelined. He asked why.

“Ambani bought land with the money Dassault gave him. Why is Dassault CEO lying? Who is he protecting? There is only one person he is protecting and that is PM Narendra Modi. This is clear cut 100 per cent open and shut case of corruption. Rs 284 crore has gone into Ambani’s account for absolutely no logical reason other than a kickback,” Gandhi said, adding that the PM “cannot survive an inquiry in the matter which was why the CBI chief was removed as he was looking at these papers”.

He reiterated the demand of a joint parliamentary committee probe into the deal.

“Modi is terrified. Rafale is open and shut case and one of partnership between Modi and Ambani. Fact is Ambani didn’t pay for the land — Dassault did. The CBI chief was looking at these papers. It is obvious that there is enough material in the public domain to nail Modi and the CBI chief was removed,” said Gandhi.

On the question of SC asking for pricing details of the jet, Gandhi said the French President had told him privately that pricing was not covered by a secret pact.

“I keep saying Rafale is an open and shut case of corruption because the deal was negotiated for a decade. Modi personally, not ex-Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, changed everything,” Gandhi added.

Source: The Tribune

Big Blow For Modi-led BJP Govt, As Supreme Court Says Submit Details of Rafale Pricing, Ambani Selection Procedure

New Delhi: The highest court in the country, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the Narendra Modi-led BJP government when it asked the latter to submit complete details of the Rafale Jet fighter deal, including pricing, procedure for selection of Anil Ambani’s firm Reliance Defence and the reasons why other Indian companies, particularly the PSU HAL were not given the same kind of ‘special treatment’ that was accorded to Anil Ambani.

According to an NDTV report, hearing petitions questioning the Rafale jet deal, the Supreme Court today asked the government to submit details of pricing and the selection of Anil Ambani’s defence firm as India offset partner.

The government refused to do so claiming that the information is classified, after which the court asked for a written submission in the form of an affidavit, within 10 days that these details cannot be shared.The SC will pass further orders based on the affidavit submitted by the government and can even compel the government to make it’s paper-work public – at least in a sealed cover before the court.

In the last hearing, the court had asked for details of the decision-making process that led to the deal but had emphasized that it would not get into “pricing or suitability” of the jets.

But today, the court said, “We would like the details of pricing and cost to be submitted to the Supreme Court in a sealed cover. This may be submitted in the next 10 days.”

The government argued that pricing was not revealed in Parliament and the earlier government had also not disclosed details of a previous deal. Say it in an affidavit, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi told the government’s lawyer.

The court is hearing petitions, including those filed by former ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan questioning the jet deal between India and France and the choice of Anil Ambani’s inexperienced Reliance Defence as India partner for Rafale maker Dassault.

Mr Shourie called the court’s order a “very, very substantial step forward” in the controversy. “Confidentiality does not relate to price, only technical specifications. It will be subject to challenge. It will be difficult to say pricing is confidential,” Mr Shourie told NDTV.

Beginning the hearing, the judges noted that the “suitability of the jet and its utility” has not been questioned. “What had been questioned is the bonafide of the decision-making and price,” they said.

Petitions before the court call for an investigation into the Rs. 59,000 crore deal for 36 fighters from Dassault, announced in 2016 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s talks in Paris with then French president Francois Hollande.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi has led the opposition charge against the Rafale deal, repeatedly accusing the government of negotiating a not-so-favourable contract just to benefit Anil Ambani. Both the government and the industrialist have denied the charge.

The political row escalated sharply after Francois Hollande said in an interview last month that France had no role in the selection of Anil Ambani’s company as India partner.

The previous Congress-led UPA government had negotiated with Dassault for 126 Rafale jets under which 18 jets were to be supplied in a fly-away condition and 108 were to be manufactured in India along with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). However, the UPA could not seal the deal.

In the deal negotiated by the new government, Anil Ambani’s firm became Dassault’s offset partner with no experience in the field. As part of the offset clause, Dassault has to ensure that business worth at least half the money – Rs. 30,000 – is generated in India.

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa says can be a “game-changer” and booster for India’s defence.

Source: NDTV

Modi Govt is trying to muzzle autonomy of CBI: UP Congress chief Raj Babbar

Uttar Pradesh Congress chief Raj Babbar, along with hundreds of party workers, protested near the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) office in Lucknow and accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to muzzle the autonomy of the CBI by divesting its chief Alok Verma in a midnight drama.

The Congress workers, along with the state chief Raj Babbar, were detained and taken on a bus from the protest site.

The police barricaded both the roads in order to restrict the protesters from reaching right outside the CBI office ahead of the Congress protest.

Around 11:30 am on Friday, hundreds of Congress workers, under the leadership of Raj Babbar, arrived at Naval Kishore Marg and started raising slogans against the Centre. They were also carrying placards to demand complete freedom to the CBI.

Speaking to India Today, UP Congress chief Raj Babbar said, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he works for 18 hours a day. However, it’s very clear now he uses most of his time for unlawful activities. He is trying to muzzle the autonomy of CBI. Alok Verma has been sent on forced leave because he was going to order a probe on the irregularities in the Rafale deal.”

Responding to Babbar’s allegations, UP BJP spokesperson Dr Chandramohan said, “The Congress party is without vision and has no concrete issue to counter both central and state government. Their strategy is not going to work again because people believe in the development work carried out by us without any discrimination.”

Kamal Haasan demands probe into Rafale deal?

Actor-turned politician Kamal Haasan has said that an investigation should be carried out to answer questions that are being raised over the Rafale deal.

Speaking to media persons on Friday, Haasan said that at a time when suspicions are being raised against the central government’s conduct, the best way out is to order an investigation that will answer all questions.

“There are a lot of allegations and suspicions [about the Rafale deal]. An investigation must be ordered. If one is innocent, there is nothing to fear,” he said.

The Modi government is facing criticism from the Opposition over alleged irregularities in the Rafale deal with French defence manufacturing giant Dassault Aviation.

The Congress has been accusing the central government of nepotism and said that it gave special preference to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence over other competitors for an offset contract with Dassault. The second criticism is about the alleged price escalation of the Rafale fighter jets from the UPA-era deal.

The chief of the Makkal Needhi Mayam also attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party for the rise in fuel prices. Haasan said the continuous rise in fuel prices is resulting in the hike in prices of other commodities too.

“The central government is more responsible for this [than the state government]. When the BJP was in the Opposition, the party had protested against hike in fuel prices. Why is not doing anything now?” he asked.

Source: India Today

Shatrughan Sinha Appeals To PM Narendra Modi On Rafale Deal: “Sir Ji, Break Your Silence”

NEW DELHI: For the second time in less than a week, BJP parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha has asked the government to clear the air on the multi-million dollar Rafale fighter jet deal, which has been caught in a political slugfest. Today, in a tweet, Mr Sinha asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to break his silence and contradict former French president Francois Hollande, who had dropped a bombshell last week on the deal for the 36 Rafale jets.

“Sir ji! Please break your silence and contradict former French President Hollande (since both of you were present in meeting)….otherwise people will think he is speaking the truth,” Shatrughan Sinha, who has been consistently critical of his party’s government, tweeted.

Last week, a French publication had quoted Mr Hollande as saying that the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner for the Rs. 58,000 crore Rafale deal.

Mr Hollande’s remarks have been denied by both the French government and Dassault, the maker of the Rafale jets.

The opposition has been alleging that PM Modi sealed the deal without any transparency and how it benefitted Anil Ambani. The Anil Ambani-led group is manufacturing aerospace components as part of the offset component of the Rafale deal. The clause requires Rafale manufacturer Dassault to ensure that business worth around Rs. 30,000 crores is generated for the Indian defence system. Reliance Defence is not making components for the Rafales ordered by India but is building assemblies for Dassault business jets.

On Saturday, Mr Sinha, 72, had asked the government to come clean on the fighter jet deal.

“The statement has come from a person who was not only a former France president but the one under whom the (Rafale) deal was sealed. Some questions have arisen from it, which need to be answered,” Mr Sinha, the lawmaker from Bihar’s Patna Sahib seat, had said in the presence of Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh.

“People are questioning why an experienced company like HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) was set aside and a new company (Reliance Defence) got the opportunity (for offset contract under the deal),” the actor-turned-politician had added.

The deal to buy Rafale fighters was signed by the NDA government with France in 2016 after the previous Congress government’s negotiations were scrapped. The Congress-led UPA’s plan was to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France’s Dassault Aviation, with 108 others being assembled in India by the HAL in Bengaluru. But according to the new deal, India would buy 36 ready-to-fly Rafale jets.

Mr Sinha’s comments were criticized by fellow party parliamentarian RK Sinha on Monday, who accused him of siding with opposition leaders like Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Yadav.

“You should first decide where you stand. With Modi or against Modi. The people of the country will settle the account accordingly,” RK Sinha had said on his Facebook page.

Mr Sinha, called Shotgun for his acerbic comments that consistently attack his own party, has had an uneasy relationship with the BJP for a few years and often cribs that the party, under PM Modi and Amit Shah, had relegated him to the spectator seats in Bihar.

Source: NDTV

Rafale Deal: Technical HODs at Dassault Aviation claim Reliance Defence was never the first choice, decision to drop HAL was taken by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute

In complete contradiction to what an official press statement from the French aviation giant Dassault Aviation, manufacturers of the Rafale fighter aircraft say, two top technical heads at Dassault Aviation (DA) have claimed in an exclusive interview with IndiaScoops.com, that the entire technical staff team at Dassault Aviation were unhappy with the move to drop the Indian PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and go ahead with Reliance Defence Ltd.

Speaking to IndiaScoops.com on phone, the two internal experts pointed out that there was a discussion between officials at DA and several emails were exchanged over a period of 7-8 days. The entire technical team wanted to work with HAL, but the decision was overruled by the top DA management headed by CEO Eric Trappier at the last minute.

Also Read: GOI told us take Reliance or No Deal: Former top Hollande aide stands by ex-President’s statements on Rafale

“We were sure we would be working with HAL and not any other Indian company. At least a 100 emails went to and fro from different departments at DA on the issue. At the last minute, we were informed that HAL was dropped and a new Indian company with whom we had never worked before and which had no expertise in manufacturing fighter aircraft was selected for the job. The entire technical team and our team heads and HODs were shocked. It was a bolt from the blue. But we had to follow instructions. At the end of the day, it’s profitability for the company that matters and if the top management decided to work with Reliance Defence, we had to toe the line. We all knew that the new company had no expertise, no experience. Internally, this issue was discussed among the technical HODs on email and several emails went to and fro. But it was CEO Eric Trappier and a couple of other officials’ at DA who took the decision to go with Reliance Defence,” the officials told IndiaScoops.com.

The decision to drop HAL and go with Reliance Defence Ltd was that of CEO Eric Trappier and two others who mysteriously refused to listen to any advice of the departmental HODs and selected Reliance on the grounds that the deal would be scrapped, they told IndiaScoops.com in an exclusive interview.

“We were told the Indian government would have scrapped the deal if Reliance was not taken on board. (Read Here) Scrapping the deal would mean losses for the company and hence the top management headed by CEO Eric Trappier  took the decision to work with Reliance, even though the in-house technical HODs had vetoed working with a new company having no experience and expertise – this was the official explanation given to the team. The technical HODs told the Dassault Aviation top management that handing over the contract to a new company would compromise and jeopardize the technology and equipment as well as be hazardous for the over-all image of DA as a world-class manufacturer of fighter aircraft. This has been put in writing on several emails, but the final decision by CEO Eric Trappier and two others  was in favor of Reliance Defence,” they told IndiaScoops.com.

IndiaScoops.com has with held the names of the officials concerned to protect their identity as “confidential sources” primarily as they are not authorized by DA to speak to the media, given the fact they head vital technical teams at DA and revealing their identity would violate their employment contracts and also prevent us from accessing further information.

Dassault, one of the world’s most established and experienced defence manufacturers, picked Anil Ambani’s debt-ridden firm as a partner in India, “because it was registered with the MCA (Ministry of Corporate Affairs) and had land in Nagpur which provided access to the runway,” said top sources at the French firm, in a damage control move, speaking to NDTV on the condition of anonymity.

As justification, those reasons are unlikely to tamp down the opposition’s allegations that Anil Ambani benefited from brazen crony capitalism in a massive $8.6 billion deal for India’s purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France, a deal that was negotiated personally and then announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 during a visit to Paris, reports NDTV.

According to an Economic Times (ET) report, the French government has said it was in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners for the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighter jet deal as former French president Francois Hollande’s reported comments that New Delhi proposed Reliance Defence as the Indian partner for the contract escalated the political row over it.

While the French government said French companies have the full freedom to select Indian firms for the deal, Dassault Aviation, the makers of Rafale, said it had made the decision to partner with Reliance Defence Ltd, reported ET.

Both the French government and French aerospace company Dassault issued separate and varying statements following a French media report which quoted Hollande as saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for French aerospace giant in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice.

The sensational comments quoted to Hollande by French publication ‘Mediapart’ gave a new twist to the controversy as the Indian government has been maintaining it was not officially aware of whom the Dassault Aviation has selected as its Indian partner to fulfill offset obligations of the deal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.

“The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by French companies,” the French government said in its statement as quoted by ET.

NDTV reported that Hollande’s office said he stood by his earlier remarks and statements made to Mediapart.

Hollande’s comments drew sharp reactions from the opposition parties in India, which have been accusing the government of massive irregularities in the deal and benefiting Reliance Defence Ltd (RDL) despite not having any experience in the aerospace sector.

According to a report in The Hindu, the former French President Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government suggested industrialist Anil Ambani’s company as the offset partner for the €7.87 billion deal to purchase 36 Rafale fighter jets. Hollande was the French President at the time the deal was signed in 2015.

He told a French news outlet, Mediapart.fr, on Friday that his government didn’t have “a choice” in the selection of Reliance Defence, the company owned by Anil Ambani.

“It is the Indian government which has proposed this service group and it is Dassault that has negotiated with Ambani. We didn’t have a choice, we took the interlocutor that was given to us,” he was quoted as saying.

Repeated assertions
His comments fly in the face of repeated assertions made at the highest level of the Indian government that it was Dassault Aviation (DA) that selected Reliance Defence as its offset partner. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said “no offset contract has been signed so far” and an agreement between two companies did not require the permission of the government.

“As per the applicable guidelines, DA is free to select the Indian offset Partners and provide their details at the time of seeking offset credits, or one-year prior to the discharge of offset obligation,” the government had stated.

Responding to Hollande’s comments, the Defence Ministry tweeted that the statement was being “verified.” “It is reiterated that neither [the] Government of India nor [the] French Government had any say in the commercial decision,” the Ministry said in a tweet.

In September 2016, India and France signed a €7.87 bn agreement for 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition. The deal includes aircraft, spares, weapons, maintenance and performance guarantee for five years. The deal has a 50% offset clause to be executed by DA and its partners. Under this, DA and Reliance Defence have set up a joint venture to manufacture aerospace components.

In a recent interview Ms. Sitharaman denied any government role in the choice of offset partner in the Rafale deal.

She had said, “Isn’t that a decision of a commercial enterprise to take on its own? I have nothing to do with it. I have not prompted them, not led them, not told them, not instructed them. I have not done any match-making whatsoever.”

The Reliance Group had stated that it got the offset contract from DA and did not receive any contract from the Defence Ministry till date.

with inputs from The Hindu and The Economic Times

Rafale deal: It’s a surgical strike on defence forces by Modi, Anil Ambani, says Rahul Gandhi

Upping the ante on the Rafale issue, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a “surgical strike” on the defence forces.

His renewed attack on Modi came a day after a French media report quoted former French president Francois Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the ₹58,000 crore Rafale jet fighter deal and France did not have a choice.

The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out … SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defence forces. Modi Ji you dishonored the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul (sic),” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Modi had announced the procurement of a batch of 36 Rafale jets after holding talks with then French President Hollande on April 10, 2015 in Paris.

Source: PTI

Will Teach Modi Government A Lesson: MK Stalin After Taking Charge Of DMK

CHENNAI: MK Stalin stepped into his father M Karunanidhi’s shoes today, formally taking over as the chief of the DMK, with a call to arms for his party men. “My dream is to oppose who give a religious colour to everything… We will teach a lesson to the Narendra Modi government,” said the new party chief.

The 65-year-old, who has been handling the party for more than a year, also set a closer target. “Let’s throw away the corrupt government in Tamil Nadu,” said the leader, who took charge three weeks after his father’s death.

The ceremony took place at the DMK headquarters, where black-and-red party flags and drumbeats brought a festive air for the first time since Mr Karunanidhi’s health took a turn for the worse more than a month ago. After the meeting, Mr Stalin visited his father’s memorial on Chennai’s Marina Beach to seek his blessings.

Looking back at the 49 years of Karunanidhi’s leadership, Mr Stalin said, “I never dreamt that I would lead the party. It is a huge responsibility… I don’t say I would lead. Let’s do it together. Let’s question all including ourselves if we go wrong”.

The DMK — which has taken turns with arch-rival J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK to share power in the state for decades — has now set its sight on national politics. Over the last months, Mr Stalin has been a vocal part of the opposition that’s trying to cobble together a front to take on the BJP in the national elections next year.

“Today’s political situation has come as a grave challenge. Education, art, literature, religion are under attack by authoritative and communal forces. The Union government is trying to destabilise judiciary, selection of governors. All this has dealt a blow to the secular principles,” Mr Stalin said. Under the BJP, even the rights of state governments were being trampled upon, he added.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders including Mamata Banerjee congratulated Mr Stalin on his elevation. “Congratulations to Shri M K Stalin on being elected President of the DMK. I wish him happiness & success as he begins a new chapter in his political journey,” Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Source: NDTV