Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today slammed the previous UPA government for not taking a decision on the Rafale fighter jet deal for about 10 years and said she could not spell out in detail what happened due to the delay as it involved the nation’s security. She said no decision was taken in the matter between 2004 and 2013, during the UPA dispensation after several rounds of discussion. “After being in power for 10 years…you (Congress party-led UPA) went without taking a decision,” she said. The minister said she could not spell out in detail about what happened due to the indecision as the issue involved the nation’s security. She said that after the NDA assumed power in 2014, the inter-governmental route was opted for expeditious procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition with France after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s discussions with the Air Force.
Stating that the UPA government could not complete the procurement, she said the BJP-led dispensation did it, “considering our necessity and in view of urgency.” The procurement order was placed “properly” and “by not slipping away” from any procedures. The Cabinet Committee on Security nod was obtained and all formalities were complied with, she told reporters responding to a question on the sidelines of a CII event. “This government is functioning without any sort of corruption,” she said when asked why the Congress party was raising the issue now.
Using a Tamil phrase – Kuttayayai Kiraluthal – which roughly translates as “muddling up,” apparently by the Congress party, she said they raised questions over the deal, looking for non-existent corruption. “This (fighter jet procurement) has become an excuse for muddling up,” she said.
Yesterday, the minister while speaking to reporters in Delhi termed the Congress party’s charges on the deal as “shameful” and said these amounted to “disservice” to the armed forces. She said the cost of each aircraft along with weapon systems was much lower than what was negotiated by the UPA government. She alleged that the indecision of the previous UPA governments to procure the combat jets “potentially compromised” national security interests.
India inked an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procuring 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore, nearly one-and-half years after Prime Minister Modi announced the proposal during a visit to Paris. The delivery of the jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019. The Congress party recently raised several questions on the deal including the rates, and charged the government with compromising national interest and security while promoting “crony capitalism” and causing a loss to the public exchequer.