Cong: PM overlooked Parrikar on Rafale pricing, guarantee
New Delhi, November 15
Even as the Supreme Court yesterday reserved order in the Rafale petitions, the Congress today launched another set of allegations against PM Narendra Modi, accusing him of overlooking his own Defence Minister and sector experts on aircraft pricing, sovereign guarantee by France and arbitration.
Congress media head Randeep Surjewala cited “government file notings” to allege three things — the PM ignored the advice of then Raksha Mantri Manohar Parrikar and Defence Acquisition Council against raising the benchmark price of 36 jets to Rs62,166 crore from Rs39,422 crore; the PM waived the legal requirement of a sovereign guarantee from France and instead accepted its letter of comfort; the PM diluted the arbitration clause of the deal by agreeing to engage with jet maker Dassault Aviation instead of the French Government.
The Congress reiterated its demand for a joint parliamentary committee probe into the matter saying the Supreme Court had “constitutional limitations in the matter.”
Surjewala questioned the arbitration clause approved by the PM and said while the PM says Rafale is an Indo-French inter-government agreement, he approves India and a private jet supplier as partners in the arbitration clause besides allowing the seat of adjudication to be changed from Delhi to Geneva in violation of Indian law and expert opinions.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi also questioned the deal again, saying: “The latest skeleton to tumble out of the Rafale cupboard: No Guarantee by the French Government. backing the deal. But our PM says there’s a letter from the French promising to be faithful! That’s enough to call this a “Govt to Govt” deal? #BikGayaChowkidar.”
Surjewala used official confirmations of “Rafale corruption” by retired Defence Ministry officer Sudhanshu Mohanty to charge the PM with raising the Rafale deal benchmark price by three billion euros in the Cabinet Committee on Security. Asked if pricing could be discussed when the SC was adjudicating the matter, Surjewala said: “The SC has constitutional limitations and cannot look at file notings which reveal the truth. The court is not an enquiry office. The facts will emerge when the JPC summons files of the meetings of Cabinet Committee on Security, Defence Acquisition Council and the price negotiations committee. We are speaking on the basis of government file notings. Let the government refute facts.”
He also said the PM ignored the file advice of the Law Ministry and the air acquisition wing of the Air Force to insist on a sovereign bank guarantee from France for the deal.