CAG Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from Rafale deal audit: Congress

Vikas SV

New Delhi, Feb 10: Asserting that CAG Rajiv Mehrishi was the then Finance Secretary when the Rafale deal was struck, Congress on Sunday demanded that Mehrishi recuse himself from Rafale deal audit.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said it will be improper for him to audit the Rafale deal as there would be conflict of interest.

"Rafale Deal took place during current CAG Rajiv Mehrishi's tenure as Finance Secretary. Since it's a corrupt deal probe should be done. But, how will CAG investigate against himself? First he will shield himself and then the government. This is conflict of interest," ANI quoted Sibal as saying.

Sibal further told reporters that Mehrishi is likely to present the report on the Rafale deal in parliament on Monday. Sibal said that Mehrishi was the finance secretary from October 24, 2014 to August 30, 2015 and in between Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Paris on April 10, 2015 and announced the signing of the Rafale deal, an Indian Express report said.

[Rafale: Report claims MoD protested against PMO undermining negotiations]

Congress has been accusing the Modi government of corruption in the deal, alleging that the price of the aircraft was raised and the offset deal was taken from state-owned aircraft maker HAL and given to businessman Anil Ambani's newly formed Reliance Defence, which had no experience. The government and Anil Ambani have repeatedly refuted all allegations of irregularities and corruption.

Amidst the negotiations over the Rafale deal between India and France, the Defence Ministry had raised strong objections to parallel negotiations, a report in the The Hindu had earlier claimed.

['Over-reaction': Manohar Parrikar reply to MoD dissent note on Rafale]

Citing a Defence Ministry note dated November 24 2015, the report also stated that it was clear that such parallel discussions by the PMO had weakened the negotiating position of the Ministry of Defence and the Indian Negotiating Team. This was brought to the attention of then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, the report also added.

The Hindu report also makes note of the submissions that the government had made to the Supreme Court in October 2018. The government had said that the negotiations over the Rafale Deal were conducted by a seven member team headed by the Deputy Chief of Air Staff. There was no mention of any role for the PMO in these negotiations.

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