Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday attacked the government for not making public the prices of Rafale fighter aircraft, and charged that there was a “scam” in the deal.
“For the first time, the defence minister is saying that we will not share details of money spent on buying the aircraft... I spoke during the Gujarat polls that there is a scam (in the Rafale deal). Modi ji has personally got the deal done,” Gandhi told reporters outside the Parliament.
He added, “Modi ji had personally gone to Paris. Personally the deal was changed. The entire India knows it. And the defence minister is saying she will not inform India, the Indian martyrs and their relatives about the money spent on buying those aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is some scam.”
Gandhi’s attack came a day after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had refused to share the details of the deal on the grounds of security agreement signed between India and France.
Her response was to a written question in Rajya Sabha by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal, who had asked whether the government did not want to disclose in public domain the agreement between India and France for purchasing the aircraft.
And it wasn’t just Rahul who attacked the government; his party jumped in too.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the government is not ready to disclose the price of the Rafale aircraft in Parliament, which raises doubts on its intent.
“Modi government is indulging in an unforgivable game of compromising ‘national interests’ and ‘national security’. A ‘huge scam’ is brewing in the procurement of fighter aircraft for Indian Air Force,” he alleged
“Grave apprehensions and claims of insurmountable loss being caused to public exchequer are in public domain with the government refusing to state the truth,” Azad told reporters.
At a joint briefing with Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala and party spokesperson Rajeev Gowda, the leaders said it is time the prime minister answers eight questions posed by the Congress on the Rafale deal, on which the government has adopted “a complete and studied silence”.
They alleged “complete non-transparency in disclosure of purchase price of aircraft, flagrant violation of the mandatory provisions of ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’ and prior clearance from ‘Cabinet Committee on Security’”.
These factors and “sacrificing national interests on ‘Transfer of Technology’ and blatant promotion of financial interests of ‘crony capitalist friends’ by prime minister have marred the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft by Modi government from Dassault Aviation of France,” the joint statement said.
The Congress leaders also accused the Modi government of adopting “lame duck diversionary tactics” on the Rafale deal, saying it is time the prime minister answers questions of the people of India.
Azad said the government must disclose the price of 36 fighter aircraft which Modi purchased off-the-shelf during his visit to France in violation of the set procedures.
He alleged that as per information the per aircraft price during the National Democratic Alliance comes to Rs 1570.8 crore, against Rs 526.1 crore negotiated during the United Progressive Alliance.
He also said “while the aircraft was sold for Rs 694.8 crore to Qatar by the same company, why was it sold for 100 per cent more price to India”.
“Why are prime minister and defence minister hiding the purchase price?” he asked.
Surjewala asked, “How did the prime minister take a unilateral decision to buy 36 Rafale aircraft by violating the mandatory ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’ and in absence of an inter-governmental agreement with France at that time?”
Photograph: Vijay Verma/PTI Photo