The repeated and varied attempts of the BJP to defend the controversial Rafale deal while avoiding all the pertinent questions on it says a lot about the government’s vulnerability on the issue. The most recent offensive launched by Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, brings back the narrative of rheto-ric while the government continues its dogged efforts to conceal the real facts. The answers to the 15 questions posed to “expose Congress party’s falsehoods on Rafale” in reality only exposes the government’s misconduct and puts the focus back on the issues that it has been evading. Here are the three broad areas Mr Jaitley raised questions on and their answers-
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On delay by the UPA government:
The documented timeline for the 126 aircrafts as negotiated by the UPA shows that the UPA gov-ernment was involved in actual negotiations with the French from 2012 to 2014 within which de-tailed work share agreement with HAL, transfer of technology provisions and production of the Ra-fale in India was discussed an incorporated.
On the other hand, the BJP took over on May 26, 2014 and till date, there is not a single Rafale added to the IAF fleet despite the government terming it as an ‘emergency off the shelf deal’. Con-sidering that the first aircraft will be operational only later in 2019, 4 years after the deal has been signed, terming the previous government as “inefficient and incompetent” for not delivering after 26 months of negotiations is really absurd.
On distortion of facts related to price:
It is ironic that the government repeatedly accuses the opposition of distorting facts related to the price of the deal and yet remains adamant about not revealing the actual amount. The documents from the press release by Dassault and Reliance in 2016 show the total price of the deal to be about Rs 60,000 crore for 36 aircrafts which works out to Rs 1,660 crore per plane. This is more than dou-ble the price of the aircraft under the earlier deal for 126 aircrafts.
Moreover, as per the India-France joint statement, the aircraft and systems will be “on the same con-figuration as had been tested and approved by the IAF in the MMRCA evaluation.” This essentially means that the configuration and features of the 36 flights is exactly the same as had been negotiat-ed by the UPA for the 18 aircrafts in ‘fly away condition’. If it was all included in the cost men-tioned in the original agreement, why does Mr Jaitley refer to ‘add ons’ as the reason for a cost es-calation of this magnitude? It can only mean that it is the BJP which is indulging in misleading facts and figures and that the “India-specific adaptions and weaponry” was nothing but a false pretext to justify this enormous increase in the price.
On private players and procedures:
The government can attempt to justify the award of the contract to a newly established Reliance Defence owned by debt ridden industrialist over HAL which has over 60 years of experience in air-craft manufacturing by stating that it is the preogative of Dassault and the government has no say in the matter. But the Defence Offset Guidelines introduced by the current government in 2016 man-datorily requires that, “all Offset proposals will be processed by the Acquisition Manager and ap-proved by Raksha Mantri, regardless of their value.” While it is clear that the government’s permis-sion is required to process the offset agreement, the government has now inexplicably abdicated its duty. If the Defence Ministry indeed had no role in awarding the offset agreement, Mr Jaitley and the government needs to answer why the ‘nationalist’ Modi government diluted and violated the DPP and endangered national security?
These questions are another example of the BJP’s diversionary tactic to confuse us with a deluge of irrelevant and misleading information while distracting us from the real issues around the Rafale deal. Rather than levelling accusations and allegations against the Opposition, the government should incorporate some transparency in its functioning and be answerable and accountable to the citizens.