New Delhi: The much-awaited CAG report on Rafale fighter jet deal, which could not be tabled in the Parliament on Tuesday, is now expected to be presented by the government on Wednesday, the last day of the 16th Lok Sabha session.
After a day of allegations and counter-claims over the Rafale deal, which has been the centre of argument between the government and the opposition for the last few months, the issue is expected to rock the Parliament on its last day, just months ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The government’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from French company Dassault has become a controversial political issue, with the main opposition party Congress levelling allegations of corruption and impropriety, and the ruling dispensation defending the move.
Meanwhile, media reports have suggested that the CAG report does not mention the pricing of the fighter jets – the main issue over which the Modi government and the Congress have been at loggerheads.
On Tuesday, the Congress staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha after its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the Rafale deal was rejected.
Kharge said the CAG report on defence was tabled before the Rajya Sabha and was “leaked”. He said the report was not tabled before Lok Sabha.
Mahajan said the reports were tabled before the Lok Sabha, in an apparent reference to P Radhakrishnan tabling three CAG reports, including one on defence services.
Intervening in the matter, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the issue of Rafale has been discussed in the House and even the Supreme Court has given its judgement on it.
“The Prime Minister is scared of JPC. Since you are not heeding to the demand of JPC, we are staging a walkout,” Kharge said as his party staged a walkout.
Pre-empting the report, the Congress cited conflict of interest in CAG Rajiv Mehrishi overseeing the audit of Rafale deal since he was the Finance Secretary at the time the deal was being sealed. The Congress further accused Mehrishi of trying to save the government.
The Congress’ attack on the Modi government over the Rafale deal heightened after a report in The Hindu claimed that the deal between India and France involved “major and unprecedented” concessions from the Indian government. It reported that critical provisions for anti-corruption penalties and making payments through an escrow account were dropped days before the signing of the inter-governmental agreement (IGA).
Last week, The Hindu had claimed that the Ministry of Defence had raised strong objections to “parallel negotiations” conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) with the French side.
However, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissed the report as “flogging a dead horse” and accused the opposition of playing into the hands of multinational companies and vested interests.
War of Words Between Congress and BJP
The war of words between the Congress and the BJP over the Rafale issue turned uglier on Tuesday as Rahul Gandhi accused PM Modi of “treason” and acting as Anil Ambani’s “middleman”, prompting the BJP to claim that he worked as a lobbyist for foreign firms.
The Gandhi family has a history of “looting” the country, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said in a counter-attack, adding that it was height of “shamelessness and irresponsibility” that the Congress president “abused” the “honest” prime minister Modi.
Firing a fresh salvo at PM Modi, Rahul released to the media an email dated March 28, 2015 purportedly written by Airbus executive Nicolas Chamussy to three recipients with the subject line “Ambani”.
Quoting from the email, Rahul claimed that Ambani was aware in advance of the Rafale deal before India and France announced it in 2015 during Modi’s visit to the country and said that it was in violation of the Official Secrets Act.
PM Modi’s action “puts him in jail”, he said.
Dubbing Rahul a “lying machine”, Prasad asserted that the email referred to a chopper deal and not the Rafale purchase and also put Airbus in a dock by saying that it is under a needle of suspicion in several deals signed during the UPA era.
At his press conference, Gandhi claimed the email showed Ambani visited then French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian’s office and mentioned an “MoU in preparation and the intention to sign during the PM visit (to France)”.
The Congress president asked how Ambani knew about the deal and mentioned it in the French defence minister’s office when even then foreign secretary S Jaishankar and then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had no information on it.
“This is a breach of the Official Secrets Act… This is treason and this is what spies do. The prime minister is the only other person who knows about the deal and has informed Anil Ambani about the deal. The Prime Minister is acting as Anil Ambani’s middleman,” Gandhi alleged and called for a criminal investigation into the matter.
Hitting back, Prasad said, “Let Rahul Gandhi explain where did he get internal email of Airbus. Who is supplying him? …There cannot be a bigger thing than this that he is working as a lobbyist for foreign firms.”
The firm is also linked to a corporate lobbyist, who was recently deported from the UAE and is being probed on money laundering charges, he alleged.
He also took strong exception to the Congress leader charging Modi with “treason”, saying his party had serious differences with former prime ministers coming from the Gandhi family over several “murky” defence deals signed during their term but it never accused them of treason.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) has thrown muck at his own face by abusing our honest prime minister… We will expose his lies before the public,” he said.