The political dogfight over the Rafale deal on Tuesday escalated with the Congress trashing the Modi government and French defence major Dassault Aviations defence of the deal while the ruling BJP hit back accusing the grand old party of creating a controversy around sensitive defence requirements.
A day after the Modi government made public a redacted version of its affidavit to apex court detailing the decision to purchase 36 fighter jets from France’s Dassault, the Congress raised several questions over the procurement including prior approval from the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC).
Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who has been relentless in his attack over the issue, targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi has admitted to his theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit, he admitted to changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and putting Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani’s pocket,” Gandhi tweeted.
Later in a media conference, Congress leader Manish Tewari contested the government’s assertions made before the Supreme Court.
“Centre’s affidavit conceals more than it reveals,”said Tewari referring to the Centre defending the deal and asserting that the purchase of the French fighter aircraft was in conformity with the process laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) of 2013.
“Was the Indian Air Force on board to roll back the procurement from 126 to 36 aircraft? If the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal to buy 126 Rafales (during the UPA regime) collapsed as the government claims, then was a fresh process initiated for the new deal,” asked Tewari.
Pointing out that neither service qualitative requirements (SQR) were initiated nor a technical evaluation of the new deal was done, Tewari said the process to acquire 36 jets was in “clear violation” of the DPP and the Centre “needs to answer as to why the process was not followed”.
“This is a command performance rather than a process dovetailing into a decision. The decision to buy the jets made earlier and the process structured later to provide legitimacy to it,” said the former Union minister.
The party also dismissed Dassault Aviation CEO) Eric Trappier’s remarks in an interview to an Indian media outlet, rubbishing Rahul Gandhi’s charges of “lying” and asserting that the intergovernmental deal to buy 36 Rafales was “clean”.
Trappier also said that the company itself chose Anil Ambani as offset partner for the deal and clarified that it had 30 more such partners other than Reliance.
The Congress alleged that there was a “fixed match” between the Modi government and Dassault and said the “blatant corruption” in the fighter jet deal cannot be hidden.
Dubbing Trappier’s interview as “dictated” and “manufactured lies”, the Congress said the “Rafale scam” cannot be suppressed.
“Mutual beneficiaries and co-accused’s statements hold no value. Beneficiaries and accused can’t be judge in their own case,” said Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala, daring the Modi government to submit itself for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who has earlier ridiculed Gandhi as “clown prince”, yet again targeted the Congress chief.
“Falsehood is not a substitute for Rahul Gandhi’s failed politics. Realising that the Modi government bought the Rafale at a price cheaper than what UPA was negotiating the disrupter’s are now reporting to petty hair-splitting,” Jaitley said on twitter.
“UPA delayed the Rafale purchase, much required for improving the combat ability of Indian Air force. Is Rahul Gandhi’s failed politics compelling him to render India’s sensitive defence requirements controversial,” he added.