A delegation of Congress leaders on Wednesday submitted a memorandum to the Comptroller and Auditor General of India regarding alleged irregularities in the Rafale jet deal. The party has demanded a thorough investigation into the purchase details.
The Congress will also approach the Central Vigilance Commission “to expeditiously and quickly adhere to their constitutional duties”, party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had said on Tuesday.
India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in 2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets for Rs 58,000 crore.
The Opposition party has accused the Narendra Modi government of getting an overpriced deal. It has also accused the government of helping a defence firm owned by Anil Ambani, which has no experience in the sector, land a mega contract under the deal. Congress President Rahul Gandhi had lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during the Monsoon Session of Parliament. He had accused them of not being truthful about the deal.
The government has denied the Opposition’s allegations. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday said the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited was excluded from the deal by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. “HAL and Dassault [Aviation] couldn’t agree on production terms,” she said. “So HAL and Rafale couldn’t go together. Doesn’t that very clearly say who didn’t go together with HAL and under which government it happened?”
Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday told reporters that the Indian Air Force needs new planes as old ones are prone to accidents. “I don’t think JPC or CAG inquiry is set up to satisfy ego of an ill-informed leader,” he said. He added that Congress leader and former Defence Minister AK Antony had done nothing to modernise the armed forces during his eight-year tenure. “He was the minister when the offset rule was framed and who left the HAL in lurch. He has a lot to answer,” the minister added.
Prasad’s statement came a day after Antony accused Sitharaman of suppressing facts and making false claims. “Why is the government afraid when it will have a majority in the Joint Parliamentary Committee…that means they have something to hide,” Antony said. “Who authorised Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring down the number of fighter aircraft from 126 to 36?”