‘Allegations on Rafale deal shameful’: Sitharaman, Rijiju defend NDA

The defence minister’s remarks comes a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that the Prime Minister Narendra Modi change the “entire deal” to benefit a businessman.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2017 21:39 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Nirmala Sitharaman,Rafale deal,Rahul Gandhi
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman (Reuters File Photo)

Facing a barrage of allegations relating to the Rafale fighter deal, the government on Friday defended the contract for the 36 French-made jets arguing that it negotiated a better per unit price than the UPA regime and all procedures were followed before clearing the purchase.

Brushing off the Congress’ allegations that the Rs 59,000-crore deal was overpriced, clinched by violating necessary procedures and tailored to help an industrialist as “politically motivated”, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the NDA government moved swiftly to fill gaps in the Indian Air Force’s capabilities by placing the Rafale order.

She accused the UPA regime of not attending to the IAF’s key requirement for a decade and credited the NDA government for making the emergency purchase in a “fast and transparent” manner to plug capability gaps.

“Between 2004 and 2014, the UPA couldn’t arrive at any decision. That was the grim situation when the NDA came to power,” the minister said at a South Block media briefing.

She said the due process of clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security was followed with active participation of then defence minister Manohar Parrikar. India floated a global tender in August 2007 to buy 126 planes but it stood cancelled after PM Narendra Modi declared in April 2015 India would buy 36 Rafales from France under a government-to-government deal.

She said while the UPA regime couldn’t take a decision for 10 years, the NDA government quickly grasped the seriousness of the situation and followed the necessary procedure to hammer out a deal with a friendly foreign country. She said it was “shameful” that the previous government failed to serve the military’s interests and was now “bickering” over price.

The Congress on Tuesday alleged that each fighter would cost Rs 1,570 crore under the deal struck by the NDA government compared to Rs 526 crore under the older deal. The minister said the per unit cost of a jet was “absolutely” and “undoubtedly” lesser than what the UPA regime was negotiating.

She asked defence secretary Sanjay Mitra to share with media the comparative cost of a Rafale jet as negotiated by the NDA government versus the UPA regime. The ministry, however, is yet to share those figures.

On the allegation that the government dropped a key provision that mandated transfer of technology (ToT) to India, Sitharaman said the clause made no economic sense for the smaller order for 36 warplanes. “It’s simple economics. When you talk about 126 jets, ToT makes economic sense but not 36 in an urgent procurement situation,” she said.

The Congress had made similar accusations in September 2016.

“Repeating allegations doesn’t make them true if those are not built on facts,” she said.

First Published: Nov 17, 2017 15:47 IST