Rafale deal biggest example of crony capitalism: Congress

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 28, 2018 10:49 hrs
A Rafale fighter jet flies over the factory of French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation in Merignac near Bordeaux

New Delhi: Calling the multi-crore Rafale jet deal 'the biggest example of crony capitalism', the Congress on Friday alleged the Modi government has 'compromised national interest' by helping a private entity to the tune of crores of rupees in violation of rules.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said Prime Minister Narendra Modi must give answers to the nation on the deal and his party wants him to speak on this issue in Parliament during the current monsoon session. 

He alleged that the Modi government is 'deceiving' the country by not giving answers about award of contract to a private player in this 'mother of all defence deals'.

The government has been rejecting all allegations about the Rafale deal.

The Congress leader told reporters that shocking revelations have brought out lies of Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman about the award of Rs 30,000 crore 'defence offset contract' to Reliance Defence as part of this deal.

"The culture of crony capitalism is the DNA of the Modi government. It is truer than ever in case of the Rs 60,145 crore Rafale deal," he said.

"The art of deceiving India is the Modi government's mantra in this mother of all defence deals. Intrigue, conspiracy, deception and loss to public exchequer have marred the unilateral purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts by the government," Surjewala said.

"Rs 1,30,000 crore lies is being peddled by Modi government. Reliance Defence has claimed to have secured the offset contract from Dassault Aviation (maker of Rafale jets) for Rs 30,000 crore and a consequent 'lifecycle cost contract' of Rs 1 lakh crore," he said.

The Congres leader said even Dassault Aviation in its annual report for 2016-17 has claimed that offset contract is being executed by Reliance, while the defence minister has claimed that the offset contract has not been awarded by Dassault Aviation.

"The simple question is, who is lying – Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman or Reliance/Dassault Aviation?," he asked.

Citing rules, Surjewala said all offset proposals need to be approved by Defence Minister and be part of approval for the main procurement of defence product and the offset contract is required to be countersigned by the ‘Acquisition Manager' of the defence ministry.

He alleged that the defence offset contract went to a private company with zero experience of manufacturing fighter aircrafts. Besides, Reliance Defence was formed just 12 days before the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts by the prime minister in France on April 10, 2015 and did not have a licence to manufacture fighter jets, he said.

A Reliance firm was given licence to manufacture fighter aircrafts by the Defence Ministry but it did not own any land or building on the date of the licence on February 22, 2016, Surjewala said, adding that the company was incorporated on April 24, 2015 -- 14 days after the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts.

This, he said, was done after suddenly denying the biggest ever defence offset contract to public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which signed Rs 36,000 crore offset contract in shape of a ‘Workshare Agreement' on March 13, 2014 till PM Modi 'unilaterally' announced an ‘off-the-shelf' purchase of 36 Rafale aircrafts.

Surjewala alleged there was 'mal-intent' of the prime minister and complete surrender of the defence minister vis-a-vis the interest of the only Government company having experience of manufacturing fighter aircraft.

"Does the prime minister represent the interest of private companies and private industrial houses or is his duty and obligation to protect an existing signed contract between an experienced government company as also the supplier of weapons system?" the Congress leader asked.

The Congress leader asked whether Sitharaman was not aware that French defence minister met her and told her that she was going to Mehan where Bharatiya Janata Party's Maharashtra government gave land to Reliance Defence for a joint venture for offset contract.

"It only shows that the national interest was being compromised by the Prime Minister and Defence Minister of India," Surjewala said, while alleging that guidelines on defence contracts have been violated.

He also cited a rule that a contract should be audited by the defence ministry.

"Why are Prime Minister Modi and Defence Minister Sitharaman lying on the issue? It is time for Prime Minister Modi to answer to the nation," he said.

Surjewala cited an earlier press release from Reliance, claiming it quoted 7.87 billion Euros (over Rs 60,000 crore) as the cost of the Rafale deal after India and France signed a purchase agreement for supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets on September 23, 2016.

"The contract includes a 50 per cent offset obligation to the tune of approximately Rs 30,000 crore, which is the largest ever offset contract in the history of India. DRAL (Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited) will be a key player in the execution of offset obligations," he quoted Reliance as having said in the release.

 

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