Congress alleges massive scam in $8.7-billion Rafale aircraft deal. BJP accuses party of playing with national security

The Congress alleged on Friday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “completely surrendered” the interests of the country as the defence offset contract to make fighter jets went to Reliance Defence Ltd, which has no experience in manufacturing fighter aircraft.

The party said the Centre denied an opportunity to the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, which has years of experience in the field. The BJP, however, repeated that the Congress, led by Rahul Gandhi whose “childish theatrics have a direct correlation with his political maturity”, is making a mockery of issues related to national security.

Releasing a set of “documents” on the Rafale deal, Congress’ media in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala said HAL was the only government company having experience of manufacturing fighter aircraft. “It also manufactures the Mirage French aircraft for the Indian Air force, a contract that we (the UPA) had signed and we had given the licence and ensured that the licence goes to them,” he said.

Surjewala said the “culture of crony capitalism is the DNA of the Modi Government. He said the ‘defence offset contract’ went to Reliance Defence Ltd, which had zero experience of manufacturing fighter aircraft.

“Reliance Defence Ltd had been constituted 12 days before (March 28, 2015) the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by the Prime Minister in France on 10 April, 2015. Reliance Defence Ltd did not have the licence to manufacture fighter aircraft,” he said, adding that the licence was later given by the Defence Ministry but it did not own any land or building on the date of the licence, which is February 22, 2016.

‘Sullying PM’s Image’

BJP’s spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said the Congress is playing a dangerous game with national security. “Guided solely by their desire to drive the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi out, the Congress is playing a dangerous game with national security. This is an issue which has been explained at length in Parliament by the Defence Minister and subsequently by the Law Minister. But the Congress is beating the same drum without an iota of proof of wrong-doing to sully the PM’s image,” said Trivedi.

“Can Reliance and Dassault Aviation sign an ‘offset contract’ of ₹30,000 crore without the approval of the Defence Minister? Has the ‘offset contract’ been countersigned by the ‘Acquisition Manager’ of Defence Ministry?” Surjewala asked.

Surjewala urged the Prime Minister to answer to the nation. “Nobody wants to lose their jobs and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. or its MD can dare to question the Prime Minister as to why a ₹ 36,000 crore offset contract for which a work share agreement had been signed between HAL and Dassault Aviation was given and shown the door was thrown out like a fly from the milk,” he alleged.

“Was it not the duty of India’s Prime Minister and Defence Minister to protect the interest of a PSU with adequate experience and not permit that company to be superseded after signing with the same agreement by private company? Does the Prime Minister represent the interest of private companies and private industrial Houses or is his duty and obligation to protect an existing signed contract between an experienced government company as also the supplier of weapons system?” he asked.