As both the Houses of Parliament did not take up the issue of the alleged scam in the Rafale fighter jet deal due to disruptions, the Congress stepped up the offensive against Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Friday. Talking to reporters, Opposition leader in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and former Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh cited the annual report of Dassault Aviation, makers of the combat aircraft, and said the refusal of the Centre to divulge the details of the deal for “national security” reasons is hollow.
Azad said the annual report of the company says that in 2015 it sold 24 Rafale jets each to Qatar and Egypt, at the rate of ₹1,319 crore apiece.
“Only 11 months later, we purchased 36 Rafael jets from the same firm for ₹1,670 crore each. The price difference in 11 months for a jet, sold by the same company to Qatar, Egypt and India, is ₹351 crore.... we paid ₹12,630 crore extra.”
He said the UPA had floated tenders for 126 Rafael jets. The Cabinet Committee on Security had concluded during the UPA regime that the minimum requirement for the country was 126 Rafael jets, he said. “But that deal was later cancelled, and in place of 126 Rafale jets, this government negotiated, under the leadership of Modi, to purchase only 36. So how are we going to compensate for the 90 Rafale jets?” Azad asked.
He added that if the Prime Minister’s focus was indeed the security of the country, he would have increased the number of jets. “So this government, in a way, has compromised with the security of the nation.”
The Congress leaders alleged that there was complete non-transparency in the disclosure of the purchase price of the aircraft. Party’s media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala, who also addressed the press conference, said the Centre had violated mandatory provisions of the Defence Procurement Procedure. He said the deal did not get prior clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security.
“On the issue of transfer of technology, the Centre did not get any favourable commitments from the company and the deal by-passed HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd) on the ₹ 36,000-crore offset contract, in favour of a company with zero experience in manufacturing fighter aircraft,” he said, and added that the non-delivery of the 36 Rafale aircraft purchased on emergency basis 35 months ago, is also a serious issue.
“The Modi government’s diversionary tactics on the Rafale deal has left more questions than answers,” the leaders added. “Why are the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister hiding the purchase price?” they asked.