Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s punitive attacks on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday launched an all-out offensive against the Congress and its president, terming the allegations as false and claiming that the NDA government negotiated the deal at 20 per cent cheaper prices compared to that of the UPA in 2007. Also Read - BJP's Troubleshooter, NE's Most Influential Politician Himanta Biswa Sarma to Take Oath as Assam CM Today
In an exclusive interview to news agency ANI, said that the Congress’ allegations are based on “complete falsehood” and that Rahul Gandhi himself has given “seven different prices in different speeches” with regard to the 2007 Rafale deal. Also Read - Will Himanta Sarma Outplay Sonowal to Become Assam CM? Crucial Decision Today
“Congress Party’s false campaign launched on Rafale aircraft deal based on peddled untruth has been casting a cloud on the Inter-Governmental agreement and seriously compromising national security,” said Jaitley. Also Read - Centre Faces Tough Question as Pressure Mounts to Impose Full Lockdown in India to Beat COVID Surge
“This (allegations on Rafale deal) is like a kindergarten or primary school debate, “Well, I was paying 500 something and you’ve paid 1600 something”. That’s the argument being given, it shows how little understanding (Rahul Gandhi) he has,” he added.
Jaitley questioned the Congress if it was aware of the fact that the price negotiated in 2016 was 9 per cent cheaper than the basic price per aircraft in 2007.
“Let us first come to the pricing. My question therefore is, if you are fully aware — Mr Anthony fully read the file and abandoned the contract — he would tell his party that the L1 offer of 2007 had a basic 2007 price plus escalation plus currency variation. In 2015 or 16, this would have been 9 per cent costlier than what the basic aircraft price of 2016 negotiated was… Loaded to unloaded, you compare the price again. The 2016 price is 20 per cent cheaper than the 2007 offer. So we got it cheaper,” Jaitley asserted.
“What was negotiated from 2015 to 2016 and finally executed in 2016, with the escalations and the currency variations, the basic aircraft price turns out to be 9 per cent cheaper. Is the Congress party aware of this?” he added.
When asked about former BJP ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha’s claim that the government will pay Rs 1,000 crore more per plane as compared to an earlier deal, Jaitley called them “career nationalists” who lack “credibility”. “Our tragedy in the NDA has been, particularly in BJP, we’ve had a fair share of career nationalists. They are nationalists with us as long as it suits their career. I don’t attach much credibility to them,” he said.
Furthering his attack, the finance minister accused the Congress of compromising the nation’s security by stalling the Rafale deal for ten years while the “combat ability of forces” had to be increased.
“The Congress Party and its leader, Shri Rahul Gandhi, are guilty on three counts: firstly, the UPA delayed the deal by over a decade comprising national security,” read a tweet by Jaitley.
“Secondly, every fact that Shri Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party has spoken on pricing and procedure are completely false, and thirdly, Congress Party’s effort of raising these issues is to further delay a defence procurement so that India’s defence preparedness further suffers,” it added.
He challenged the Congress party to produce evidence that the deal was not good for the country and attacked Rahul Gandhi for twisting the facts of the deal.
“Any responsible politician will know that government to government transactions are always clean. Governments don’t pay kickbacks. It’s a transaction between Government of India and Government of France, publically made and publically declared terms that we will give you an offer better than 2007 and then enter into. But they had already gone home. If you can go to the extent of misquoting (French) President Macron, and saying that he warned me there is no secrecy clause, the French Government denied it, the Government of India showed the secrecy clause in Parliament and then you turn around and say “hoga par main nahin manta” (it must be there but I don’t believe it). If that is the cussed approach, that you say look my party has a legacy of corruption in defence deals, let me make a faint effort to say everybody is corrupt. If that is the political strategy, then please don’t advise us to show official files,” Jaitley said.
On a question that Congress is levelling charges on the government for favouring Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence due to his closeness to the members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Jaitley made it clear that governments only deal with governments and the offset has nothing to do with the contract.
“Let’s be clear, this is a government to government arrangement. Offset has nothing to do with this contract. There are 100s of offsets in India. Government will purchase 36 fully-loaded aircrafts coming all the way from France, manufactured in France, no private party involved. Government of India’s role ends there. Under a policy devised by the UPA, every defence supplier (original equipment manufacturer or OEM) has to undertake some offsets. Purchases have to be made from India equivalent to about 30 per cent of the total contract value. Who will he make purchases from? He selects his own partners. Those purchases have nothing to do with Rafale or these aircrafts. He could be buying guns, pistols, binoculars or some spare parts. For this purpose, not only Rafale but every defence manufacturer has to enter into offset contracts,” Jaitley said.
He added that these companies can enter into offset contracts in India’s private sector or public sector. “DASSAULT can also enter into contracts with whomever they want and the GoI has nothing to do with it. They won’t enter into contract with only one. They may enter into offsets with several companies in both private and public sector. In fact, DASSAULT has also entered into one contract for offset with public sector in India. This is not the first defence purchase. There have been dozens, if not 100s of defence purchases. Every OEM does his offset purchases,” Jaitley said.