Cong raises questions over Rafale deal, BJP hits back
RAISING questions over the Rafale fighter aircraft deal, the Congress on Tuesday accused the Government of having compromised national interest and security while promoting “crony capitalism” and causing a loss to the public exchequer.The BJP rubbished the allegation, claiming it was intended to “divert attention” as the party bigwigs faced the prospect of being questioned in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scandal. The Congress’ communications department head Randeep Surjewala alleged the Government neglected the interests of public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as Dassault Aviation, the French manufacturer of Rafale aircraft refused to transfer technology to it and instead entered into an agreement with Reliance Defence.
He also alleged that the aircraft was being purchased at much higher rates than what was decided after the completion of the tender process under the previous UPA Government.
The BJP hit right back, with its spokesman GVL Narasimha Rao claiming that the Congress party was engaging in a “stunt” by raising the Rafale issue as it was scared at the prospect of its top leadership, including the Gandhis, being questioned in the VVIP chopper scam.
He said after the arrest of middleman Carlos Gerosa in Italy last month and his likely extradition to India soon, “the Congress has made baseless allegations over Rafale deal to divert public attention and to cry political vendetta”.
“None of these stunts will work and the Congress must be ready to answer who took bribes in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal as the money trail is going to become known after the extradition of Carlos Gerosa,” he told PTI.
Surjewala said the UPA Government floated a tender on August 20, 2007 for purchase of 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) for the Air Force and, post negotiations, two of them--Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon remained in the reckoning. On December 12, 2012, Rafale was declared L1 vendor, the bidder whose quotation is the lowest, with base price of USD 10.20 billion (Rs 54,000 crore according to the conversion rate prevalent then).
It was decided that of the 126 aircraft, 18 would come in fly away condition and the remaining 108 will be manufactured in India by HAL with transfer of techonology, he said.
After the Modi Government was formed in May 2014, Surjewala said, the earlier Request for Proposal (RFP) for purchase of 126 aircraft was cancelled on July 30, 2015.