by Pradip R Sagar

Officials working with the head office of the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) in the national capital are burning the midnight oil to complete their findings on the purchase of controversial 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The CAG, country's top most auditor, is planning to table its report on the deal in the upcoming winter session of Parliament, scheduled to begin from November.

A senior CAG official, privy to the development, confirmed that around 70 per cent of the task has been completed and the final draft of the audit report has been sent to the ministry of defence for comments.

The audit report on the Rafale deal is keenly awaited by the government as well as the opposition, as the defence deal with France has put the Union government on the defensive. The Congress has already launched a massive campaign against the government, alleging that the Narendra Modi-led government compromised on the national security by reducing the number of jets to be ordered from 126 to 36 and by removing the transfer of technology clause for HAL in the original negotiations, which the Congress-led UPA had started.

The Union government is also facing allegations of 'crony capitalism' in the deal over selection of Reliance Defence Limited, a “private company with zero experience of manufacturing fighter aircraft”, for getting the Rs 30,000 crore worth offset contract to develop the parts of fighter jets in India.

"Final draft of the report is sent to the MoD for comments. We are expecting to table it in the winter session of Parliament. Besides procedures, the audit is also looking into whether the aircraft were bought at higher price or not," an official said.

Earlier, the CAG was aiming to table its report on the Rafale deal in the last monsoon session, but later decided to wait for the deal to be fully executed.

While demanding a probe by the joint parliamentary committee into the matter, a high-level Congress delegation has already met the CAG twice in the past one month for seeking a forensic audit of the Rafale deal. Giving a 20-point memorandum to the CAG Rajiv Mehrishi, the Congress has given a detailed enclosures on the irregularities and acts of omission and commission by the NDA government in the fighter jet deal.

And after the statement by former French president Francois Hollande on September 21 when he told a French journal that the Reliance Defence was proposed as an offset partner by the Indian government and the French government had no say in it, the Congress took its fight to the next level by approaching corruption watchdog Central Vigilance Commission to lodge a complaint in the alleged 'corruption' in the defence deal between India and France.