The Congress on Thursday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of compromising national interest on the Rafale issue, with party chief Rahul Gandhi alleging that the latest skeleton to tumble out of the “Rafale cupboard” is that there is no guarantee by the French government backing the deal. The Congress also accused the prime minister of accepting in the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), chaired by him, the higher ‘benchmark price’ of Euro 8.2 billion instead of Euro 5.2 billion for the 36 aircraft, despite objections by the defence acquisition council and the then defence minister Manohar Parrikar not approving it.
The opposition party also charged Modi with waiving the condition of arbitration between India and France by converting it into an arbitration between the supplier company Dassault and Indian Government, as also changing the venue of arbitration from India to Switzerland.
Gandhi asked if the Rafale jet deal can be called a “Government to Government” contract, as there is only a letter from the French government promising to be faithful.
“The latest skeleton to tumble out of the RAFALE cupboard: No Guarantee by the French Government 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 “Government to Government” deal?(sic)” he asked on Twitter, using the hashtag “BikGayaChowkidar”.
The government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that no “sovereign guarantee” was given by the French government on the deal for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets.
The French government has, however, given a “letter of comfort” to India which would be good enough “governmental guarantee”, Attorney General K K Venugopal told the court.
Echoing his party president, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the only forum to investigate “acts of omission, commission and corruption in the biggest defence scam” of India is to have a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.
The government has denied any wrongdoing in the deal while the BJP has dismissed as “lies” allegations of corruption levelled by the Congress.
Addressing a press conference on Thursday, Surjewala alleged, “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gone as far as to sabotage his own nation’s interests in favour of his crony capitalist friends” and added that the prime minister had waived the sovereign guarantee requirement in the deal.
Surjewala claimed that new revelations further expose “brazen corrupt practices” in Rafale scam.
“The entire spectrum of deception lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” he alleged.
“The bottom line is, Prime Minister Modi has gone as far as to sabotage his own Nation’s Interests in favour of his crony capitalist friends,” he alleged.
“The new expose in Rafale scam. Why did PM Modi set a higher ‘benchmark price’ of Euro 8.2 Billion (Rs 62166 crore) instead of 5.2 Billion Euro (Rs 39422 crore).
“Why did PM Modi compromise National Interests by waiving ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government’s Sovereign Guarantee’ in violation of DPP,” he asked.
The Congress leader claimed that a senior official of the Defence Ministry has ‘spilled the beans’ indicting the Modi Government for “corrupt practices” in fixing a higher ‘benchmark price’.
Surjewala said on August 24, 2016, a day after the Law ministry raised objections on the sovereign guarantee, PM Modi in the CCS, accepted the ‘Letter of Comfort’ and waives off the condition of ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government Sovereign Guarantee’.
On the arbitration waiver, he said on December 11, 2015, the Law Ministry opined that “India should be the venue of arbitration in case of a dispute and the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 be made applicable”, but Modi Government agreed to arbitration with Dassault instead of French Government.
“If the agreement is between Indian and French governments as stated, how can the arbitration be held between India and Dassault Aviation. Why has PM Modi compromised on national interests,” he asked.
Surjewala also alleged that the national security adviser was negotiating the Rafale deal, and not the ‘Negotiations Committee’ of IAF and the Defence Ministry.
“Did PM Modi ask him to do so and for what reason. On January 12/13, 2016, NSA Ajit Doval negotiated the Rafale deal in Paris and then defence minister on March 7, 2016 recorded about a meeting held by NSA with the French side in Paris to negotiate the deal.
“The simple question is, why was NSA Ajit Doval negotiating the Rafale deal in Paris and under whose authority,” he asked.