The Congress on Wednesday rejected Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claims that the National Democratic Alliance government had no role in selecting partners for offset supplies in the Rafael deal, reported PTI.
Under the defence procurement policy, vendors are required to disclose how the offset contracts will be carried out, said Congress leader Anand Sharma. It also clarifies that the offset contract has to go to a defence public sector undertaking with previous experience in the sector.
“For him [Jaitley] to say that offset is not part of the contract is wrong,” said Sharma. Demanding an investigation, Sharma alleged that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group already had information that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited would not get the offset contract.
“Only the prime minister knew that the offset contracts would not be given to HAL and he violated the oath of secrecy taken on the position he holds,” said Sharma. “The Official Secrets Act says such things are not to be disclosed. How did Anil Ambani know that HAL will not get the contract and he set up his company 10 days before?”
Earlier in the day, Jaitley demanded evidence from the Congress to show that the Rafale deal with France was not good for the country. He said transactions between governments are always clean and that his government had negotiated hard to keep prices in the deal lower by at least a fifth of what the previous government had negotiated in 2007.
“Every fact that they [Congress] have said on pricing is factually false,” Jaitley said. “[Congress chief] Mr Rahul Gandhi himself has given seven different prices in different speeches with regard to the Rafale, that is the 2007 offer. And the simple case is they have made it as if it is a kindergarten or primary school debate.”
In a Facebook post, Jaitley denied the allegations of favouring a private company. “Any Original Equipment Manufacturer [OEM] under the offset policy of the UPA [United Progressive Alliance government] can select any number of Indian partners, both from the private sector and the public sector, for offset supplies? This has nothing to do with the Government of India and, therefore, any private industry having benefitted from the Government of India is a complete lie,” he wrote.
Reacting to Jaitley’s allegation that the Congress had compromised national security by delaying the procurement of the aircraft, Sharma asked, “Does national security say there should be corruption and a wrong decision?”
In September 2016, India signed an inter-governmental deal with France to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets that would cost Rs 58,000 crore. Last month in the Lok Sabha, Gandhi lashed out at PM Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, claiming they had not been truthful about the deal.