‘Govt has no option but order JPC probe into Rafale deal’: AK Anthony
Continuing the attack on the government over the alleged scam in the Rafale deal, senior Congress leader and former defence minister AK Antony on Monday said the government’s silence points towards mal-intent to hush up the “corruption” and remarked that the government has no option but to order a probe by a joint parliamentary committee into the matter.
“The intriguing silence of the Modi government points towards mal-intent to hush up the corruption. The refusal of the BJP government to probe and punish the guilty is even more astonishing, pointing towards a concerted effort to bury the scam,” Antony said in a press release.
“The simple question is why has the government chosen to remain ‘mum’? Why have the prime minister and the defence minister not come forward to react to the shocking and sensational development of a corruption probe in the Rafale deal by the Public Prosecution Services of France? Can the Modi government escape accountability for corruption allegations by its intriguing silence? Is it not the responsibility of the government to come forward and accept the truth,” Antony questioned.
The Congress veteran said PM Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015, when he unilaterally announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft without going through any tender process and in complete derogation of the ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’.
“Every defence expert was shocked by this unilateral order which is India’s biggest defence deal. It was even more surprising because there was an ongoing negotiation for the purchase of 126 Rafale aircraft in pursuance of an international tender, which envisaged 108 aircraft to be made in India by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited and 18 aircraft to be purchased in fly-away condition. This international tender for 126 aircraft also envisaged the all-important ‘Transfer of Technology’ to India,” Antony added.
In a statement, Antony said neither the prime minister nor the BJP government has explained the reason for reducing the number of aircraft from 126 to 36 or the reason for sacrificing ‘Transfer of Technology’ to India.
He pointed out that as 36 aircraft are being purchased by the Modi government under an ‘Inter-Governmental Agreement’ and one party to the agreement, which is the French government, has proceeded to order an investigation through a judge, the only way forward for the Modi regime is to accept accountability and order a free and fair JPC probe into the entire set of facts, evidence and allegations of corruption in the Rafale deal.
The Congress leader’s statement was in continuance of the Congress keeping up its attacks on the Modi government in the light of the latest developments in France.
India ordered the fighter jets in September 2016 as an emergency purchase through a government-to-government deal. The deal became controversial, with the Opposition, led by the Congress, claiming that the price at which India is buying Rafale aircraft now is ₹1,670 crore for each, three times the initial bid of ₹526 crore by the company when the UPA was trying to buy the aircraft. It also claimed the previous deal included a technology transfer agreement with the HAL.
The NDA has not disclosed details of the price, but the UPA deal, struck in 2012, was not a viable one, former defence minister Manohar Parrikar previously said, implying that it would have never been closed and that, therefore, any comparison is moot. Indeed, the UPA was not able to close the deal till 2014, largely over discussions related to the pricing of items not included in the initial bid.
The NDA government has said that it cannot disclose the details of the price on two counts: a confidentiality agreement with France, and the strategic reason for not showing its hand to India’s enemies; however, it said that the current deal also includes customised weaponry.
The Supreme Court heard a public interest case on the deal and in November 2019, said it saw nothing wrong in it. In a February 2019 report, the government’s auditor, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India audited the deal and said India had not overpaid for the jets.