Narendra Modi Personally Increased Benchmark Price of Rafale Jets By 3 billion Euros

Continuing his attack on prime minister Narendra Modi on the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday alleged that Mr Modi personally increased benchmark price of Rafale jets by 3 Billion Euros (₹22,743).

”Another RAFALE Skeleton! Mr Modi personally increased the benchmark price of RAFALE jets by 3 Billion Euros. The former Director of Finance, MOD, just said that he and the negotiating team were overruled by Mr 56,”Rahul said in a tweet.

Earlier on Thursday, the Congress came out with fresh revelations which said that PM Modi overruled objections by the price negotiation committee, the Defence acquisition council and the then Defence Minister and personally increased benchmark price of Rafale jets by 3 Billion Euros.

Rahul often refers to the Prime Minister as “Mr 56”, following the latter’s infamous “56-inch chest” comment at a BJP rally in UP’s Gorakhpur. Modi had said that it would take a “chhappan inch ki chhati (56-inch chest)” to convert UP into Gujarat while campaigning for 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Earlier in the day, Rahul had raked up Centre’s admission to the Supreme Court that there was no “sovereign guarantee by the French government backing the deal”.

“The latest skeleton to tumble out of the RAFALE cupboard: NO Guarantee by the French Govt. backing the deal. BUT, our PM says there’s a letter from the French promising to be faithful! That’s enough to call this a “Govt to Govt” deal?,” tweeted Gandhi along with hashtag #BikGayaChowkidar

Supreme Court refuses to hear fresh petition on Rafale deal

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a fresh petition filed in connection with the Rafale deal.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said, “We are already hearing many petitions in the issue”, adding: “What is the need to hear a fresh petition?”

Earlier on Saturday, the central government submitted the details of the decision-making process pertaining to the deal to the top court’s Secretary-General in a sealed cover.

The apex court, while hearing a petition, had sought the said information from the Centre without divulging technical details and prices of the Rafale fighter jets.

The opposition Congress party has been alleging irregularities in the high-profile Defence fighter jets contract signed between India and France in 2016 under National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.

In 2012, during the United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) tenure, India planned to buy 18 off-the-shelf jets from France, with 108 others to be assembled in the country by the state-run aerospace and defence company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited.

However, in 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government scrapped the UPA’s plan and announced that it would buy 36 “ready-to-fly” Rafale jets from French aerospace major Dassault Aviation.

The Congress alleged that the NDA government was procuring each aircraft at a cost of over Rs 1,670 crore as against Rs 526 crore finalized by the UPA government.

Source: The New Indian Express

Seize Rafale files to reveal truth: Congress

The Congress on Sunday demanded a seizure of all Rafale-related documents to establish the truth behind the deal, alleging Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone knew the facts and had hidden them from other ministers and officials.

“In the face of new revelations, there is no doubt that the Prime Minister has got rattled. But he is not answering specific questions regarding the price of the Rafale jets and offset contracts, and how and at what stage the public-sector HAL was ousted,” Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said.

“Our demand is that all related files be seized and forensic audit of the tender documents be done,” he added, asking that a joint parliamentary committee be allowed to examine these documents.

The Congress alleges that Modi had pressured the French to give the Rafale offset contract to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence, bypassing HAL, while keeping the defence and foreign ministries in the dark.

Sharma said the Prime Minister’s state visits have “a fixed agenda with joint statements discussed in advance and the draft exchanged before the start of the tour”.

So, he asked, “when the foreign secretary says two days before (Modi’s) visit (to France in April 2015) that Rafale is not on the agenda (and) confirms ongoing negotiations with HAL, how come the decision to purchase 36 aircraft is taken?”

“It is important to see whether the draft exchanged with the French government mentioned the plan to purchase 36 fighter jets instead of the (UPA) negotiated 108 aircraft. The foreign secretary’s statement is clear (that) it was not mentioned,” Sharma said.

“Dassault chief Eric Trappier too confirmed HAL as the partner but suddenly Ambani comes in. We have said the Prime Minister will have to explain this. Or the documents will bear the truth out. The Prime Minister alone is responsible as the entire administration was kept in the dark.”

Sharma echoed Rahul Gandhi’s allegation that defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s visit to France last week was a cover-up mission, necessitated by reports quoting former French President Francois Hollande as saying the Indian government had proposed Reliance as the offset partner.

“Hence, the defence minister has gone there to manage the crisis created by former President Francois Hollande, who spoke the truth on the offset contract. Otherwise, what is the reason for the visit now?”

Sharma also accused Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley of misleading the country on the state of the economy, arguing that most of the indicators pointed to a grim reality and that even the foreign exchange reserves were falling.

He said an outflow of $30 billion (Rs 2.2 lakh crore) had been reported, around Rs 84,000 crore of it in the first quarter of this financial year.

“How can the fastest growing economy have the worst performing currency in Asia?” Sharma said.

“We are pained at the plight of the rupee; the market is in turmoil; the credit offtake is at its lowest; the current account deficit is rising. All these are the outcome of gross mismanagement and disastrous decisions like the demonetisation.”

Sharma recalled how exports had been booming under UPA rule. “Exports were growing at 18 per cent when we left office. By that yardstick, the exports should have stood at $500 billion today,” he said.

“It was $320 billion in May 2014 when we left and it is barely $300 billion today. The loss of $200 billion, which is huge, is seriously affecting job growth.”

Source: The Telegraph

Supreme Court To Hear Fresh Petition Against Rafale Deal On October 10

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court will hear a fresh petition against the Rafale deal between India and France on Wednesday. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S K Kaul and K M Joseph Monday said it will hear the petition filed by lawyer Vineet Dhanda, who is seeking a direction to the centre to reveal details of the deal and the comparative prices during the UPA and NDA rule in a sealed cover to the top court.

The petition also sought information about the contract given to Reliance by Dassault.

Advocate M L Sharma’s plea, filed earlier, alleging discrepancies in the fighter jet deal with France and seeking a stay on it will also come up for hearing on October 10.

Mr Sharma claimed in his petition that the inter-government agreement to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets must be quashed as it was an “outcome of corruption” and not ratified by parliament under Article 253 (parliament has power to make any law for implementing any inter-government agreement) of the Constitution.

A similar petition was filed in the top court in March this year seeking an independent probe into the Rafale deal and disclosure of the cost involved in the deal before Parliament.

The petition, filed by Congress leader Tehseen S Poonawalla, had sought a direction against the centre on why the Union Cabinet’s approval was not sought as part of the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) before signing the procurement deal with France on September 23, 2016.

Rafale deal is a defence agreement signed between the governments of India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircrafts in a fly-away condition as a part of the upgrading process of Indian Air Force equipment.

The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation.

Indian Air Force had advanced a proposal to buy 126 fighter aircraft in August 2007 and floated a tender. Following this, an invitation was sent to various aviation companies to participate in the bidding process.

Source: PTI

Whose Pockets Are Being Filled? Rahul Gandhi Questions PM Modi On Soaring Fuel Prices

Rewa (Madhya Pradesh): Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the soaring fuel prices and asked “whose pockets are being filled” because of this.

He also attacked the Modi government, once again, over the Rafale fighter plane deal before wrapping up his two-day visit to the poll-bound Madhya Pradesh.

“Crude oil prices were 140 dollar per barrel in international market during the UPA regime. These rates have come down to 70 dollars (in global market) now. But, the prices of petrol and diesel in India have been going up,” Gandhi told a gathering at Baikunthpur of Rewa district.

He went on to ask, “Whose pockets are being filled with high prices? Why is the prime minister not speaking on price rise of petrol and diesel?”

Taking a dig at the prime minister, Gandhi said, “Narendra Modi used to ask the people (during his speeches) whether they are getting petrol at Rs 50 now. Yes, the people are getting half-a-litre petrol in Rs 50 now.”

The Congress leader said the Modi government has ignored the interests of farmers but helped a small group of industrialists by waiving loans amounting to nearly Rs 1.5 lakh crore.

Turning to the Rafale figher issue, he said during the UPA rule, the contract related to the deal was given to state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) so that it could help create jobs.

“But the Modi government gave this deal to industrialist Anil Ambani and hiked the planes procurement price,” Gandhi alleged.

“When we asked about the price, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman lied that there was a secret clause. But, French President said that there is no such secret pact,” he charged.

He alleged that French President has said that their government had no option because the Indian government had proposed Anil Ambani”s name. Gandhi claimed that Ambani had not manufactured even a single aircraft but was awarded a contract of Rs 30,000-crore after “snatching” the work from HAL.

Ambani has already rejected Rahul Gandhi’s allegations and emphasised that the government had no role in the Rafale- manufacturer French company Dassault picking up his company as a local partner.

He had written to Gandhi on December 12, 2017, refuting allegations of his Reliance Group lacking experience to get the Rafale fighter jet deal.

Ambani had written that Reliance Defence has the largest shipyard in the private sector at Pipavav in Gujarat and is currently building five Naval Offshore Patrol Vessels (NOPVs) for the Indian Navy and 14 Fast Patrol Vessels for the Indian Coast Guard.

Congress president also alleged that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had helped industrialist Vijay Mallya in escaping from the country after defaulting on loans to the tune of thousands of crores but Modi doesn’t utter a word.

Gandhi also attacked the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh, saying the roads in the state are full of potholes but Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan claims that they are better than those in the United States.

“As Shivraj comes on the stage (at a public meeting), even a five-year-old child says that a ‘Ghoshana Machine’ (a machine of announcements) has come. No work on ground only announcements, he said.

He said that the teachers in Madhya Pradesh in schools are hired on contract, which gives no security to their future.

Alleging rampant corruption in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress president said Chouhan must answer about the Vyapam scam and the e-tendering scam.

He also promised to implement the Land Acquisition Act with rates four times more than the market costs.

“Madhya Pradesh only pays twice the land prices,” Gandhi said.

Earlier in the day, a member of erstwhile royal family of Rewa Pushparaj Singh joined the Congress in the presence of Gandhi and other leaders.

He was a minister during the Congress regime in the state but had joined the Samajwadi Party (SP) in 2008. Singh’s son Divyaraj Singh is BJP MLA from Sirmour assembly seat.

Gandhi reached Chitrakoot (Satna district) from Allahabad by a helicopter on Thursday and visited the Kamta Nath temple where he performed ‘puja’.

The temple is located in the forested hills of Kamadgiri where, according to mythology, Lord Rama stayed during his exile.

Later on Thursday, he addressed two public meetings respectively at Chitrakoot and Satna besides holding a roadshow in Rewa city in the night.

On Friday, Gandhi addressed public meetings in four assembly constituencies of states Vindhya region including at Baikunthpur (Sirmour), Shahpur (Simaria), Lalgaon (Mangawan) and Chunari (Teothar).

After addressing the rally at Chunari, the Congress president left for Allahabad in a helicopter.

The 48-year-old Amethi MP was accompanied by Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath, state party campaign committee chairman Jyotiraditya Scindia and Leader of Opposition in MP Assembly Ajay Singh.

Source: PTI

Rafale deal: Reliance got contract first, Maharashtra Govt gave land 3 months later

When the storm broke out after the former French president Hollande’s interview, Dassault Aviation which manufactures the Rafale aircraft stated that it selected Reliance Defence not under the pressure from the Indian government but because this company was registered under the Corporate Affairs Ministry of India and it had land in Nagpur which was closer to the runway.

But according to the information which has been revealed, the day when PM Modi announced the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft from France, that is on April 10, 2015, the Reliance Defence did not have any land at that time.

After the announcement of the Rafale deal on April 10, 2015, Reliance Defence gave a presentation to the Maharashtra government on June 2015 and demanded 289 acres of land in Multi-modal International Cargo Hub and Airport SEZ area in Nagpur.

On August 28, 2015, the formal land allotment ceremony took place, during which Anil Ambani had announced that he would invest ₹6,500 crores in a large Greenfield Aerospace Equipment Manufacturing Centre near Nagpur. It was told that at this center, which would house Anil Ambani’s new fledgling company Reliance Defence Fixed Wing Aircraft, aero-structures for commercial transport aircraft and helicopters, which can be used in both defence and commercial sectors, will be built.

It was also informed that at the same center, the components required for providing the after-sales service of the aircraft would also be manufactured.Now, Dassault Aviation’s argument that one of the reasons behind choosing Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as the offset partner was the availability of land falls through.It is significant to recall the timeline of the developments in this deal:

    • On April 10, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in Paris that India will buy 36 Rafael fighter aircraft from France
    • Reliance Defence had come into existence only 12 days before this announcement
    • On April 13, 2015, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar declares on Doordarshan that this deal has been done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he has supported it
    • In June 2015, Reliance Defence gives a presentation to the Maharashtra government and asks for the land
    • On August 28, 2015, after just 10 weeks, Maharashtra Government allots 289 acres of land to Reliance
    • On September 23, 2016, the agreement to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft between India and France is signed
    • On October 3, 2016, the joint venture between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation,the company that manufactures Rafale is announced

Once Anil Ambani’s firm got the land, Éric Trappier, CEO of Dassault Aviation, arrived in India and a programme was held in Nagpur during which Trappier laid the foundation stone of this joint factory. Apart from Trappier and Anil Ambani, the then French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and the then French Ambassador to India Alexandre Zeigler attended this function.

On this occasion, Anil Ambani said that it (the deal and establishing the factory) would not have been possible without the constant support and help of Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

The most interesting thing about this entire event is that when India entered into a deal for buying 36 Rafale fighters from France in fly-away state, then why was the joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence created?

When the aircraft was not to be manufactured in India then why was the slogan ‘Make in India’ so harped about in this deal?

In fact, the entire matter seems to be going beyond these 36 Rafale aircraft.

After the sensational statement by Francois Hollande and the furor it created, explanations and justifications have been coming in from all corners and the recent clarification was given by the law minister on Saturday, September 22, that “36 aircraft are coming from France, rest will be manufactured here in India”.

What can be understood from this statement? That the deal is not for 36 aircraft but for more than that? Or has it been decided that in the future too, the purchase of new aircraft will be through this new joint venture between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation?

Source: National Herald

HAL Lost Rafale Deal as it Quoted ‘257 Man-hours’ For Job Dassault Said Could be Done in 100: Minister

New Delhi: Wading into the Rafale jets controversy, Union Minister Babul Supriyo Thursday indicated that Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) lost on the deal because it quoted 2.57 times more man-hours to build fighter jets.

While HAL was to produce 108 fighter jets locally in a joint venture with French firm Dassault Aviation in the deal for 126 Rafale jets that the previous UPA regime had negotiated. The state-owned firm, however, was left out in the deal as the present government signed to buy 36 fighter jets in ‘fly-away’ condition from France.

Minister of State for Heavy Industries Supriyo, speaking at a conference on public sector enterprises organised by CII here, said HAL quoted “257 man-hours” for a job Dassault said could be done in “100 man-hours”.

For the production of Rafale fighter jets, “when Dassault said they needed 100 man hours, HAL said they needed 257, so that is indeed a big factor,” he said.

Stating that there may be political controversies over the issue, the minister said his limited point was about economics.

“I am just saying that we need to definitely look into why something that can be made in 100 hours would require 257 hours. Are we faltering somewhere. Can we bring it down? Can we negotiate on that? These are small areas that need to be looked into,” he said.

“So that is the question that all of us need to answer and that is where the government is trying their very best to support and push those public sector enterprises which need that support by the infusion of funds or the right injection at the right time – be it funds or any R&D.”

Later speaking to PTI, the minister clarified that his remarks were directed at the PSUs to assess how to match with their private peers in a time of globalisation.

HAL is a Bengaluru-based defence public sector unit and does not come under his department.

Source: PTI

Go on Offensive on Rafale Deal: Gadkari to BJP Functionaries

Mumbai: Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday told BJP functionaries to go on the offensive to counter the Opposition’s allegations on the Rafale fighter jet deal instead of being defensive.

In an unrelenting tirade against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA over the deal with French aerospace giant Dassault Aviation to buy 36 jets, the Congress has claimed the cost per aircraft is triple compared to the one fixed by the previous UPA government.

It also claims that the state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) was kept out of the offset deal with the French firm to benefit Anil Ambani’s firm.

Speaking at a state-level BJP meeting here, Gadkari said, “Reliance Defence will be supplying some parts to Dassault. What (aircraft) will be assembled in Nagpur and who should be Dassault’s vendor is their decision”.

“Dassault has many international parts suppliers. It is Dassault’s decision whom to appoint as their vendor,” he said.

The road transport and highways minister alleged that the Opposition was trying to create confusion about the deal.

“The Indian government had nothing to do with it (Dassault’s choice of Indian partner). (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi also has nothing to do with the deal. The Opposition is unnecessarily creating confusion about this deal. We are a transparent government. We should be on the offensive and not be defensive on it,” Gadkari told party functionaries.

“India has been buying fighter aircrafts since 2002. I feel sad about the condition of the aircrafts we have right now. So many fighter planes have crashed till date. The condition of helicopters is such that (it feels as if) you are sitting in a truck. Modi travels in such helicopters,” he added.

He claimed the cost negotiated by the NDA for Rafale jets was 40 per cent cheaper than what the UPA had agreed upon.

At a media interaction here on Tuesday, Union minister Prakash Javadekar had claimed that the cost of the jets was 20 per cent lower compared to the price negotiated by the UPA dispensation.

Source: News18.com

Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence Formed Only When Rafale Deal Was Announced: Congress

New Delhi: The Congress party on Tuesday launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the Rafale deal and its connection with Anil Ambani saying that the “businessman friend’s” Reliance Defence was incorporated when the aircraft deal was announced. Speaking at a press conference, Congress leader Kapil Sibal said that the deal was made to favour Ambani.

“On March 28, 2015, Reliance Defence Limited was incorporated. On March 25, 2015, Eric Trappier stated that contract with HAL was finalised. On March 11, 2015, HAL and Dassault stated parts of Rafale manufactured by HAL and Dassault will be guaranteed by respective companies,” Sibal said.

The Congress leader further alleged that only former French president Francois Hollande and PM Narendra Modi were aware of the Rafale deal. “On April 8, 2015, Foreign Secretary of India stated Rafale deal wasn’t on the table during PM’s visit to France on April 10, 2015. But PM announced about the 36 Rafale aircrafts deal, while none of them were aware,” he said.

“On April 24, Reliance Aerostructure Limited was formed days after Rafale deal was announced. Therefore, both Modi and Reliance knew what the other was up to. Only HAL didn’t know. Manohar Parrikar, Arun Jaitley or Nirmala Sitharaman none of them were aware of the new deal announced by PM. Only two people knew — then French President Hollande and PM Modi,” the allegation continued.

“Why did they take decision on Rafale deal on April 10? We are only asking for the price, not the technology,” he said.

Attacking the BJP on their “international conspiracy” remark, Sibal said, “We wanted Rafale deal to go through, which would generate thousands of jobs. I want to ask Nirmala Sitharaman where did she come across the international conspiracy.” BJP chief Amit Shah had earlier kicked up a storm saying if the Opposition was forming an ‘International Mahagatbandhan’ with Pakistan since both of them chant “Modi hatao”.

Shah’s tweet read, “Rahul Gandhi says ‘Modi Hatao’, Pakistan says ‘Modi Hatao’. Now Pakistan also supports Rahul Gandhi’s baseless allegations against PM Modi. Is Congress forming an International Mahagathbandhan against PM Modi?”

The Rafale deal row began soon after Francois Hollande claimed that the Indian government had suggested the name of Anil Ambani-led Reliance Defence as the Offset partner for Dassault in the aircraft deal.

Source/Credits: IBTimes

Rafale Deal Caused Great Loss to Exchequer’, is the mother of all scams

New Delhi: The controversy over the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jet planes by the Narendra Modi government is getting hotter, reports The Wire.

Other political leaders and civil society activists too are beginning to raise questions on the secrecy around the defence deal with French company Dassault Aviation.

The Congress has held a series of press conferences in the last few months to highlight alleged irregularities and cronyism in the deal finalized by BJP-led NDA government.

On Wednesday, eminent advocate and activist Prashant Bhushan and former BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie put the Union government in the dock for maintaining a conspicuous opacity around the issue, which has become one of the most fiercely debated issues of the Modi regime.

They alleged multiple instances of bypassing of regulations and lack of transparency in the deal, which they said caused a great loss to the exchequer and may have “jeopardised national security”, reports The Wire.

They also said the losses made by the government appear to have profited one private company, the Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Infrastructure Limited, which secured the offset contract arising out of the purchase.

They presented a detailed, point-by-point, draft that pointed out several irregularities in the way the deal was struck in 2015. The trio also drew attention to various inconsistencies in the versions that the government has advanced from time to time.

Loss to the exchequer

The leaders pointed out that when PM Modi announced that India would purchase 36 Rafale aircraft in a “fly-away” condition in April 2015 during his visit to France, he not only violated many protocols, but also overlooked the previous, cheaper, deal struck by the UPA government.

They said the UPA government had negotiated a deal with Dassault after an official bidding process, following which Dassault Aviation was given the contract to hand over 18 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) in a fly-away condition to India and assist the Indian public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture another 108 aircraft by transferring its technology, reports The Wire.

The request for proposal that the UPA issued included cost of initial purchase, transfer of technology and licensed production among others. The deal would have cost India Rs 42,000 crore, the leaders said.

However, Modi overlooked the earlier deal and negotiated the purchase of 36 aircraft at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore (according to documents released by Dassault and Reliance). The trio said this figure is “embarrassing for the government” as each aircraft would cost Rs 1,660 crore.

The leaders said this is an even bigger figure than the one estimated by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar in an interview to Doordarshan. Parrikar had pegged the amount as Rs 90,000 crore for 126 planes, which works out to Rs 715 crore per plane.

They pointed out Parrikar’s interview was only a few days ahead of Modi’s announcement of the purchase of 36 aircraft from Paris, indicating that the defence minister may not have been in the loop before the final deal was struck.

Additionally, the new deal did not figure HAL in the picture and did not mention transfer of technology clause, causing further damage to the country’s exchequer.

Inconsistencies in the government versions

Shourie, Bhushan and Sinha also hinted at the possibility of the government deliberately denying information regarding the contract, highlighting several examples. First, Parrikar did not know about the new agreement with Dassault. Or else, why would he talk about buying 126 planes only a week before the final agreement, the trio asked.

Second, only two days before Modi announced the deal, the then foreign secretary S. Jaishankar briefed the press about Rafale on April 8, 2015. He spoke about HAL’s involvement and added that Modi’s visit to France was a “leadership-level” one and the “ongoing defence contracts” were on a “different track”. Yet, Modi announced an entirely new deal two days later, reports The Wire.

Three, the India-France joint statement indicated that the new agreement was more favourable to India than the UPA negotiated one, ensuring the aircraft are delivered at a much reduced price.

However, the leaders pointed out that the government was yet to reveal the price, but Dassault and Reliance’s documents show that the aircraft were bought at a price three times higher than the deal UPA had negotiated, reports The Wire.

They further said the joint statement also indicated that the price could not have become higher because of newly added aircraft configurations.

The joint statement says clearly “the aircraft and associated systems and weapons would be delivered on the same configuration as had been tested and approved by Indian Air Force (during the UPA government)”.

Regarding the response of the government that the new deal was struck because of an urgent requirement in the Indian Air Force, the leaders said:

“All that was said by government sources in justification was that the Air Force needed the planes urgently and that these 36 planes would reach India within two years. Three years later, the aircraft are nowhere in sight. It has in fact been announced in parliament that the first Rafale fighters will come only by September 2019 (four-and-a-half years after the prime minister’s announcement). The full-pack of 36 aircraft will not be available to India till mid-2022.”

When the new deal was announced in April 2015, it was not approved by the cabinet committee on security. They said there was clear evidence that the defence ministry violated many defence regulations and procedures when the deal was being materialised.

They also questioned the government on why it did not invite fresh tenders despite the fact that one of the original bidders, Eurofighter GmbH, had “formally written to the the then defence minister Arun Jaitley on July 4, 2014, offering to reduce the cost of the Eurofighter Typhoon by a full 20%?”

Cronyism

The most severe charge they made against the government was that the purpose of the new deal was to “kick out” HAL and give the offset contract to Reliance, reports The Wire.

Claiming that it was one of the most blatant instances of cronyism, the leaders asked how could Reliance Defence Limited – a subsidiary of RIL – which was formed only 10 days before the new deal was signed, had no previous experience of aerospace manufacturing and no factory unit, could get the biggest defence offset contract in Indian history.

\They were pointing towards the contract that the joint venture company between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Ltd secured to maintain and repair the newly-bought 36 aircrafts.

The offset value is Rs 30,000 crore and a subsequent lifecycle contract amounting Rs 1 lakh crore was also given to the joint venture.

“Neither Reliance Defence nor any of its allied companies have any experience of manufacturing aerospace and defence equipment. Its Pipavav Shipyard is facing serious difficulties in building Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs) for the Navy – a long-delayed order that is impacting the Navy’s operational effectiveness. In contrast, HAL has over 60 years of experience in aircraft manufacturing.”

Secrecy around the deal

The most severe charge they made against the government was that the purpose of the new deal was to “kick out” HAL and give the offset contract to Reliance.

Even as the allegations on the government piled up, the union government has not revealed either the cost of the plane or why HAL was denied the offset contract. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman has said that since these are issues of national security, the details could not be divulged because of a secrecy clause, reports The Wire.

However, Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie pointed out several contradictions in this explanation. They said the same government had disclosed the details of the deal on the floor of the government and questioned why the secrecy clause was not adhered to then.

“In fact, on November 18, 2016, in response to a question asked in the Lok Sabha on the acquisition of fighter aircraft, the MoS, Defence stated that, Inter-Governmental Agreement with the government of French Republic has been signed on September 23, 2016 for purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft along with requisite equipments, services and weapons. Cost of each Rafale aircraft is approximately Rs 670 crore and all the aircraft will be delivered by April 2022.”

They claimed the government was “definitely trying to hide something” when suspicions have emerged around the deal. They also cited examples of cost of defence contracts made public on several occasions by different governments.

“Even more conclusive is the fact that the secrecy clause in the agreement binds India not to disclose the technical specifications and operational capabilities of the aircraft. It does not bind India to keep the price secret. In fact, French President Emmanuel Macron himself stated explicitly in March in an interview to India Today that how much is to be disclosed in this regard is entirely up to the Indian government,” the leaders added.

In the end, the leaders said the unfolding of the Rafale deal bears much similarity to the infamous Bofors scam in the 1980s where too the government insisted on not disclosing the details. Later, it became evident that the Congress government was trying to hide high-level corruption, reports The Wire.

In the end, the trio urged the parliament and media to follow up on the case. “The entire transaction is thus a textbook case of criminal misconduct, of misuse of public office, and of enriching parties at the expense of the national interest and national security,” they said.

Source: The Wire