RAHUL REFLECTS SELF IMAGE CALLING MODI A CHOR
We have earlier commented in this space a couple of weeks ago that if anything was out of step in the Rafale deal, it was that the Prime Minister short-circuited the long-winded processes involved to clinch the deal with the manufacturers ahead of his State visit to France. Yes, if you strictly go with the protocols involved, you could say Modi showed impatience with the multi-layered exercise involved before inking the agreement to purchase the fighter jets from the French Daussalt Aviation, the governmentcontrolled company. There was not an iota of corruption involved. Much is being made out of the publication of an extract from a Defence Ministry which indicates the uneasiness in the ministry due to the involvement of the PMO in the decision-making process. The Defence Secretary at the time, Mohan Kumar, noted the concern of the ministry in this regard. But what the news report mischievously failed to report is the noting of the Defence Minister at the time which emphatically clears the confusion. Manohar Parrikar noted that the “PMO and the French President’s office are monitoring the progress of issues which was an outcome of the summit meeting” and the defence secretary’s concern appears to be an overreaction. Further, Parrikar wrote that “defence secretary may resolve matter in consultation with the Principal Secretary to the PM.” To make a mountain of this molehill is wrong. But there appears to be nothing that would stop Rahul Gandhi to pull down Modi to his own tainted level so that he could establish some sort of equivalence between him and the Gandhi family when it comes to corruption. As we noted in this space, Modi in his zeal to clinch a deal which had been hanging fire for over a decade, rustled up adequate funds for thirty-six fighter jets to meet the urgent need of the Indian Air Force, without caring for the niceties of protocol which had resulted in unending delays and dithering without fructifying into a firm agreement. Consider this vital fact. Months before the 2014 election, Defence Minister A K Antony had said on camera that there was neither any time nor money to order the jets and these could be purchased by the next government. The next government was headed by a man who was determined to clear the systemic cobwebs, inject complete honesty in the process and press ahead with quick decisionmaking. Hence, the PMO’s direct interest in clinching the Rafale deal with the French without any further delay. Procedural shortcomings in the decision-making do not make a scandal, they only cause an adverse noting by the CAG or by other monitoring authorities.
A scandal involves cutting out one vendor in favour of another. The Rafale was selected by a selection committee under the UPA. If the UPA did not order the jets it may well be that Robert Vadra was insisting that Sanjay Bhandari, the notorious middleman, be made the offsets partner. That would also explain why in spite of long negotiations with the State-owned Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, no agreement could be reached on the offsets partner. Maybe HAL was made to put up unreasonable conditions which Dassault would find hard to meet. Therefore, Antony sat on the deal indefinitely. The other way the Rafale deal can be dubbed a scam is if someone had taken bribes. Not even Modi’s visceral enemies and haters suggest even remotely that Modi or anyone close to him has taken a paise from this deal or, for that matter, any other. Bribetaking would justifiably allow Rahul to claim that Modi has now aped his later father who had gone out of the way to sign up with the Bofors so that Uncle Quattorcchi could walk away with over twenty million dollars in bribes. Yes, Modi’s refusal to lay the entire Rafale facts on the table, including the part that reveals the PMO involvement in the negotiations, has led to avoidable controversy. We are convinced he has nothing to hide bar the minor infringement of the well-laid out bureaucratic process. As for Rahul, his chanting chor,
chor only reflects the image he finds in the mirror without in anyway denting the PM’s image. Yet, PM would benefit by issuing a white paper on the Rafale deal to put the record straight.