The Congress president’s relentless assault on the Rafale deal reminds you of the Gobelin strategy—repeat a lie a hundred times till it is perceived as the truth

by Amar Bhushan

The Congress president’s relentless assault on the Rafale deal reminds you of the Gobelin strategy—repeat a lie a hundred times till it is perceived as the truth. It works particularly well with people who have no appetite for details, get swayed by the simplicity and ferocity of allegations and are painfully cognisant of indiscriminate loot of public money by politicians and officials.

Rahul Gandhi is doing it, as a man possessed, to dent Modi’s clean image before the 2019 elections. As an Opposition leader, it may be an effective tactics to steal the limelight, but as a Member of Parliament who aspires to form government, he is hurting India’s defence preparedness by questioning purchase of fighter jets that are so vital to the Indian air security.

Till Modi arrived on the scene and brought a drastic change in the culture, it was unthinkable that any deal could be made without kickbacks. The situation was so bad that no vendor could sell even a pin without going through brokers and bribing civil servants, defence personnel and politicians. Those in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) who insisted on following prescribed rules were promptly disciplined. My brother-in-law, an IAS officer of Maharashtra cadre, was shunted out. 

Senior officials who were personally honest and looked the other way as proposals were approved and money exchanged hands were rewarded with post-retirement jobs. Pliable ones who manufactured proposals, manipulated technical specifications, fixed tenders and managed field trials to tailor justification became disproportionately rich. The procurement machinery in the Ministry was so well-oiled that transfer of officials and change in governments did not affect deals in the pipeline. An Israeli dealer, disappointed with my refusal to buy his products, taunted that it was far easy to handle the Ministry than my office. 

You almost suspect that Rahul Gandhi knows only the half-truth about corruption in the MoD. His peers have obviously kept him in dark about how much money they made from various deals in the past and why they could not finalise the Rafale deal for a decade. No wonder, he is so angry and has so much contempt for facts and the Supreme Court’s factual rulings on each aspect of the deal. Maybe as and when he is in the government, he will appreciate the reason for the huge difference in the price of the jets. 

The price is for the customisation to suit a specific security requirement. I recall I had to pay 15 times more than the price quoted by European vendors to a little-known Indian company for constructing an algorithm for our encryption systems. Rahul needs to seriously introspect why the government is willing to share the price with the Supreme Court but not with the JPC. If he believes that the hysteria he is building around the deal will bring him extra votes, he is in for disappointment. Actually, he needs to worry about cobbling ‘alliances’ and highlight unfulfilled promises, farm distress and widening economic disparity.