Rafael deal: Congress alleges ‘huge scam’; Reliance says allegations ‘baseless’

The Congress on Tuesday alleged that a “huge scam is brewing” in the Rafael deal and accused the Modi government of “promoting the interests of Prime Minister’s crony capitalist friends.”

Addressing a press conference, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said the government violated the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) and bypassed the interests of PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

“On April 10, Prime Minister Modi visits France and announces the deal for purchase of 36 Rafael fighter aicraft in flyaway condition. This was done unilaterally without following the DPP, without any inter-governmental agreement and in the absence of India’s Defence Minister. However, Anil Ambani, owner of Reliance Defence Limited was present in France during the Prime Minister’s visit,” alleged Mr Surjewala.

The Congress leader claimed that while the UPA government had signed the Rafael deal as a joint venture between its French maker, Dassault Aviation, and India’s HAL, the current government cancelled the entire process on 30 July, 2015.

This in turn, helped Reliance Defence Limited as they entered into a joint venture with Dassault, he said.

Mr. Surjewala said while India signed the $8.7 billion deal on September 23 last year, just 10 days later, on October 3, 2016, Reliance Defence Limited entered into a joint venture with the French fighter plane maker.

“It is time for the PM to answer why the planes were bought at such an inflated costs? Is it not true that as per UPA negotiated price, cost of one plane was Rs. 526.1 crores where​ as under NDA, the plane is costing Rs. 1570 crores? Why was transfer of technology for HAL not insisted? And finally, has the joint venture between Dassault and Reliance Defence been cleared by the Union Cabinet?” asked the Congress leader.

When asked why the Congress was raising the issue now, especially since all the facts of the deal were in public domain, Mr. Surjewala said, “No, we had raised it then as well. Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Manish Tewari and myself had raised it outside as well in Parliament. We were told that nothing has been signed. The deal has been signed last September and since then we have trying to gather information.”

The Hindu