Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday rejected allegations of corruption in the contract for 36 Rafale jets with France, PTI reported. Sitharaman said if the Congress brought up the Rafale aircraft deal in Parliament, she would welcome it. The Budget session of Parliament reconvenes on Monday.
The defence minister dismissed suggestions that compared the Rafale deal to the Bofors pay-off. “Don’t compare it [Rafale deal] with the Bofors,” Sitharaman told reporters. “There is no scam here.”
The Bofors scam dates back to the 1980s and 1990s when the Congress was in power with Rajiv Gandhi as the prime minister. The Indian government had signed a $1.4-billion (Rs 9,568 crore approximately) defence deal with Swedish arms manufacturer Bofors for 410 field howitzer guns and a supply contract in March 1986. In April 1987, the Swedish Radio had claimed that the company paid bribes to senior Indian politicians and Army personnel to secure the deal. Gandhi was also implicated in the case.
Since November 2017, the Congress has raised questions about the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Rafale aircraft deal. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had accused Modi of altering the deal for the benefit of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence, but the company has denied these allegations. The party claims that the deal was overpriced.
In September 2016, India and France signed an agreement through which France would supply New Delhi with 36 Rafale fighter aircraft, to be delivered between September 2019 and April 2022. In February, Sitharaman had said that the Centre cannot disclose details of the Rafale aircraft deal with France as it is classified information.