Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday attacked Congress President Rahul Gandhi for “manufacturing statistics” into the 36 Rafale fighter jet deal with France’s Dassault Aviation.
“The Congress President has manufactured a statistic, Rs 500 crore versus Rs 1,600 crore, a data which does not exist anywhere on any record,” Jaitley told reporters.
“Ordinarily when the Supreme Court saw the pricing, examined the procedures and offset provisions and found no substance, the controversy should have come to an end,” he said.
Jaitley said now with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) going “through the entire transaction” in a constitutional process “and after looking at it in the conserved manner… what did the CAG say?
“Our NDA’s deal is cheaper than the 2007 transaction. And keep in mind this is 2.86 per cent cheaper than that they have mentioned,” he said.
He said that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) deal could actually be wider because of two reasons. “One because of the 2016 package of the weaponry, because of nine years of advancement and much more sophistication.
“Secondly, the escalation clause in 2007 was 3.7 per cent per year and in 2016 it is 1.2 per cent, which is European inflation rate. Now this in comparison as of 2016, and when the aircraft starts arriving from 2019 onwards and subsequent years, this 2.3 per cent gap in the escalation clause will be compounded every year to the advantage of far cheaper to be continued,” he said.
Jaitley also said that the maintenance provisions are better, the delivery schedule is tighter, the transaction has been negotiated at a much faster pace and they have not found anything fundamentally wrong with the transaction.
His remarks came after the CAG report was tabled in Rajya Sabha by the government. The audit report found that the Rafale deal signed by the NDA government was priced 2.86 per cent lower than what was negotiated by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
The report does not disclose the actual price of the 36 Rafale fighter jets contracted by the NDA government. However, it includes examination of the pricing.
The prices have been redacted in the report based on the insistence of the Defence Ministry citing the Indo-French agreement of 2008 and the provisions of inter-government agreement.
Attacking the Congress, the BJP leader said that there are some vested interests that may have either corporate rivals in mind or political opposition in mind or perhaps both.
“Who have been trying to make this deal controversial? Don’t forget what started in the year 2000 was stalled in the year 2012 by the UPA. National security was compromised and no valid reason has come till date that why this deal was put on the backburner in 2012 itself.
“This is a combat aircraft which the forces need desperately. And I am proud of the fact that our government has negotiated a cheaper and a much better deal and every term of the transaction is much better,” he said.
“The matter is yet not finished as the people need to punish those who misled the country. This is exactly the repetition of 1989. This is the legacy of Congress and this is Rahul Gandhi’s legacy,” he said.
Citing the example of the Bofors scandal that had hit the Congress government in 1989, Jaitley said, “In 1989, the Congress government led by late Rajiv Gandhi was mired in corruption and thus they manufactured a St Kitts against (former Prime Minister) late V.P. Singh who had a clean image.
“Exactly 30 years later, the Congress scandals are evident from the disclosures made in courts everyday. And because Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a clean image let us manufacture a crisis,” Jaitley added.
Earlier in the day, soon after the CAG report was tabled in Parliament, Jaitley took to Twitter and said that “truth shall prevail” and the CAG report reaffirms the dictum.
“How does democracy punish those who consistently lie to the nation? The lies of ‘Mahajhootbandhan’ stand exposed by the CAG report,” he tweeted.