The Congress on Friday accused the Centre of “compromising” national security with its deal to buy 36 French Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault Aviation that, the party claimed, had caused the exchequer loss of Rs 12,632 crore.
The Opposition party, quoting from the company’s annual report, said that Dassault had sold each jet to India for Rs 1,670.7 crore in 2016, while it had sold the same jets to Qatar and Egypt for Rs 1,319.8 crore in 2015.
“Further, the Modi government signed the Inter-governmental Agreement [IGA] with France on September 23, 2016,” the Opposition party pointed out. “The objective behind the IGA was to ensure that India gets the lowest price of Rafale jets in comparison to other buyers. The inflated pricing places a big question mark on the very sanctity and purpose behind the IGA.”
Senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Randeep Singh Surjewala and Jitendra Singh alleged that the government had been opaque in this matter, PTI reported.
Azad claimed that the government could have saved Rs 41,212 crore had the Narendra Modi government not cancelled the deal the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government had signed for 126 Rafale jets. “Is this not compromising with national security?” the Congress leader told reporters at a press conference.
Surjewala claimed that the Cabinet Committee on Security had not cleared the Centre’s deal, and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was not consulted on the Rs 36,000-crore “offset contract” awarded to a private company with no defence manufacturing experience.
“Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer stand exposed as the government refuses to state the truth,” the Congress spokesperson said. “A huge scam is brewing in procurement of fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force, yet the Modi government remains opaque, intransient, obscure and obstinate.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party said the Congress’s allegations were a “pack of lies” and that the Opposition party was trying to mislead the country. “It is comparing a best deal struck by this government in the national interest with an alleged deal of the UPA government which had never happened,” the ruling party’s spokesperson Anil Baluni said.
Since November 2017, the Congress has raised questions about the Narendra Modi government’s handling of the Rafale aircraft deal. In February, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that the Centre cannot disclose details of the deal with France as it is classified information.
French President Emmanuel Macron had said on Thursday that the Indian government could reveal some details of the deal to address the queries of the Opposition and prevent a political stalemate over the controversy.