Congress comes with ‘fresh proof’ of alleged scam in Rafale deal; says it’s precursor to ‘massive storm’

PTI

New Delhi: The Congress on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on what it claimed is fresh proof of irregularities in the Rafale deal is a precursor to a “massive storm” the government is about to face.

Congress leader Pawan Khera said Modi cannot escape his political and constitutional responsibility and accountability in the “biggest defence scam” of India and for truth to prevail, the only route is to order a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe in this “scandal”. The government has denied any wrongdoing in the deal while the BJP has dismissed as “lies” allegations of corruption levelled by the Congress. Khera said that a ‘management meet note’ of Reliance Infrastructure, prepared by ICICI, the country’s largest private sector bank, is another proof of Modi government’s “involvement” in the Rafale scam.

He said the note claimed that Reliance Defence has formed a joint venture with French major Dassault for execution of offset obligations, as a part of the 36 Rafale fighter jet purchase valued at Rs 59,000 crore.  He said that note has pegged this opportunity from Rafale at Rs 1,05,000 crore and Dassault Reliance JV will provide performance based logistics for 50 years. Later, Khera shared with journalists a ‘management meet note’ on Reliance Infrastructure, a brokerage house report prepared by ICICI group firm, ICICIDirect.com, on the basis of a meeting with the Anil Ambani group firm’s management.

Khera alleged that another undisputable evidence has come to the fore that establishes the “deliberately hiked” commercial cost of 36 Rafale aircraft deal signed by Modi on April 10, 2015. “The silence of the Narendra Modi government on the new skeletons that have tumbled out of their Rafale scam cupboard is a precursor to a massive storm,” he told reporters. The Congress leader said the prime minister “cannot escape from his moral, political, legal and constitutional responsibility and accountability in the ‘biggest defence scam’ of India”.

“Everyday, new sets of irrefutable evidences are lining up at the doorstep of prime minister Modi which cements the charges of ‘squandering national interests’, ‘brazen crony capitalism’, ‘kickbacks and corruption’ and ‘serious illegalities’ that have taken place in the ‘murky saga of Rafale scam’.” Claiming that price does not cover under the so-called secrecy pact that the government is talking about, he asked why the prime minister and his government were hesitant to disclose the price of the fighter jets. “What is the price per aircraft of the 36 aircraft deal signed by prime minister Modi on April 10, 2015 in France… What is stopping the Modi government to reveal the commercial cost of the Rafale deal as well as the details of the offset obligations,” he asked.

Khera said if Dassault Aviation in its annual report can reveal the price per aircraft, if Reliance Defence can reveal the aircraft price and if a retired bureaucrat and former ‘Head of Finances’ in Defence Ministry, can reveal the benchmark price, why the government cannot. The Congress had Thursday accused 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.