Rafale deal: Cong to launch agitation, press for JPC probe

Bhubaneswar: The Congress today stepped up attack on the BJP-led NDA government, accusing it of trying to cover up an alleged scam in the Rafale jet deal and said it will hit the streets to press for a JPC probe into the issue.

“We will press for a transparent, fair and independent probe through a JPC,” Congress leader and former Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh told reporters here.

He said the party would launch a countrywide agitation to “expose the scam”.

“The Narendra Modi government is indulging in a brazen cover-up exercise to deceive people on the Rafale deal in which national interest was compromised causing loss to public exchequer,” Singh said.

Claiming that the deal caused a Rs 41,205-crore loss of public money, he said that purchase of 36 Rafale jets was done at a price of Rs 1670.70 crore per aircraft compared with Rs 526.10 crore per aircraft, as per the international bid opened on December 12, 2012 during the previous UPA government.

“While 36 aircraft would have cost Rs 18,940 crore, the amount shot up to Rs 60,145 crore,” he said, adding, as per the earlier arrangement, 108 aircraft were to be made in India by the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) with transfer of technology.

Slamming the Centre for refusing to divulge “inflated prices” of the aircraft citing a “secrecy clause”, the Congress leader claimed that the agreement between India and France has no such clause on non-disclosure of commercial purchase price.

Singh, who is also AICC Odisha In-Charge, sought to know as to why the number of fighter jets required for the Indian Air Force was “reduced from 126 to 36”.

He also accused the BJP-led government of having by-passed the defence acquisition council and cabinet committee on security (CCS), and alleged that defence procurement procedure was violated and transfer of technology surrendered.

Singh further alleged that Rs 36,000 crore offset contract was “snatched” from HAL, as a private company got ‘Defence Offset Contract’ of Rs 30,000 crore and ‘Life Cycle Contract’ of Rs 1 lakh crore.

He wondered as to why the government allowed the offset contract to be given to a company that has “zero experience” of manufacturing fighter aircraft, bypassing the public sector HAL.

The Congress leader claimed that the private company had been registered just 12 days prior to clinching the deal, and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of being a “partner” in gross irregularities.

“Has the ‘Chowkidar’ become ‘Bhagidar’ in the whole episode? This unusual act of benevolence tells a unique story of PM Modi’s crony capitalism,” Singh said.

He said had HAL bagged the offset contract, around 50,000 youths of Odisha would have got employment opportunities, as the company has a key plant in Sunabeda in the state.

Singh also criticised the Centre for “deliberately ignoring” a 20-per cent price reduction offer by Eurofighter Typhoon. “In the original invited tender by the previous UPA government, two fighter aircraft were found equal on all technical fronts – Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon,” he said.

Both the Central government and the BJP have dismissed as false the allegations levelled by the Congress on the Rafale deal.