Stepping up its offensive on the Rafale deal, the Congress today posed a set of questions to the government, asking it to disclose the “purchase price” of each fighter aircraft and details of how the agreement was reached. Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala also accused the government of “doublespeak” and “sacrificing” national interests. He cited instances during the previous UPA government when details of every defence deal were made public and placed before Parliament. “As the Modi government stumbles and fumbles, hides and conceals, indulges in doublespeak, sacrifices national interest and refuses to answer on loss to public exchequer, India will continue to demand answers,” he told reporters.
He listed a series of questions for the government, including on the price, the secrecy surrounding the deal, the government’s silence on the issue and alleging that prior permission of the Cabinet Committee on Security was not taken. “What is the price per aircraft of the 36 Rafale aircrafts being purchased by the Modi government? Did Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman not agree to share the price of Rafale aircrafts in a press conference in Raksha Bhawan on November 17, 2017? Why are PM, RM & FM hiding the ‘purchase price’?” he asked.
According to Surjewala, while Sitharaman refused to disclose the price on grounds of a “secrecy agreement”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley did not do so for reasons of “national security”. “Isn’t a full disclosure of price of Rafale aircrafts in national interest? Why are two ministers of the government speaking in two different voices? Who are they trying to shield? Why is the price of aircrafts shrouded in secrecy and cover-up?” he asked. Surjewala wanted to know whether the per aircraft price of Rafale, according to international bids opened on December 12, 2012, comes to USD 80.95 million (Rs 526.1 crore) as against the Modi government’s per aircraft negotiated price of USD 241.66 Million (Rs.1,570.8 crore) as per current exchange rates. He also asked whether Qatar had purchased 12 Rafale fighter jets in November 2017 for USD 108.33 million per aircraft (Rs 694.80 crore), according to current exchange rates.
“If this is correct, why has the Modi government paid such an astronomically higher price for Rafale aircrafts?” According to Surjewala, Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon aircrafts were found equal on all technical requirements by the Indian Air Force. Did Eurofighter Typhoon give a written offer to then defence minister Arun Jaitley on on July 4, 2014, offering to reduce prices by 20 per cent, he asked. “Why did PM Modi and defence minister then not ask both the companies to submit fresh bids through the ‘inter-governmental agreement route’ so as to get the lowest price in favour of India’s public exchequer?” “Why was no prior permission of the Cabinet Committee on Security taken by PM Modi? Why was the Defence Procurement Procedure violated with impunity? Why are the prime minister, defence minister and finance minister completely silent on this issue?” he went on to pose.
The Congress leader also questioned the government on why Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, a government PSU, was superseded for a Rs 30,000 crore ‘offset contract’ in favour of a private company. This was despite the fact that HAL had already signed a ‘work share agreement’ on March 13, 2014 with Dassault Aviation, he said. The government has denied the Congress charge that there is a huge scam in the procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.