Congress allegations on Rafale falsehood, NDA deal better: Jaitley (Lead)

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New Delhi : Rejecting Congress allegations of a scam in the Rafale fighter jet deal as "complete falsehood", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the aircraft price with weaponry and India-specific adaptations was now at least 20 per cent cheaper than that finalised by the UPA government.

In a blogpost, he accused the Congress of having seriously compromised national security by delaying the Rafale deal by over a decade and said the Congress and its President Rahul Gandhi were unaware of the Rafale deal facts.

"Is Rahul Gandhi aware of the aircraft price, which was quoted in 2007 in the L1 bid? Is he aware that there was an escalation clause, which by 2015 when the NDA struck the price deal, would have further escalated the price? Would not the escalation clause have continued to escalate the price till each of the aircraft was supplied? Have the significant exchange rate variations between rupee and euro during the same period been considered?" Jaitley said.

"Can Rahul Gandhi deny that when the add-ons such as India-specific adaptations, weaponry, are installed on the basic aircraft, the UPA price, which was mentioned in the 2007 L1 offer, would be at least 20 per cent costlier than the more favourable price negotiated by the NDA?" he added.

The Finance Minister, who also held the Defence portfolio for seven months after Manohar Parrikar's exit last year, underlined that a fighter jet without weapons is just a "flying instrument" that can serve no purpose in a combat situation.

"Can Rahul Gandhi and the Congress party deny if the total contract cost, that is, basic aircraft plus add-ons, including weaponry, Indian adaptations plus future supplies and maintenance are all added, the NDA terms become far more favourable than the 2007 L1 offer?"

He said the Congress had launched a "false campaign" that the Modi government had paid a higher price for the fighter jets, an industrialist had been favoured and the interests of the public sector were compromised.

"Each one of the above issues is based on complete falsehood. It is expected from national political parties and its responsible leaders to keep themselves informed of the basic facts before they enter a public discourse on defence transactions," Jaitley said.

The Finance Minister also denied that the Modi government had favoured any particular industrialist in the deal, saying the offset contract was the prerogative of the manufacturer (Dassault).

"Any Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) under the offset policy of the UPA can select any number of Indian partners, both from the private sector and the public sector, for offset supplies. This has nothing to do with the government of India and, therefore, any private industry having benefited from the government of India is a complete lie," Jaitley said.

He pointed out that 36 of the Rafale aircraft with their Indian adaptations will be supplied to India in a fly away condition and that "there is no manufacturing of these 36 aircraft in India".

He also accused Rahul Gandhi of being unsure of facts.

"How is it that Gandhi quoted a price of Rs 700 crore per aircraft in Delhi and Karnataka in April and May? In Parliament, he reduced it to Rs 520 crore per aircraft, in Raipur he increased it to Rs 540 crore, in Jaipur he used Rs 520 crore and Rs 540 crore in the same speech."

Jaitley said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government suffered from a "decision-making paralysis" and that is why it decided to revisit the procedure after 11 years in 2012.

"In principle approval for acceptance of necessity of procurement of 126 replacement aircrafts was recorded by the Raksha Mantri way back on June 1, 2001. After UPA came to power, it issued a request for proposal on August 28, 2007. In January 2012, the Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) determined Dassault Aviation to be L1.

"For reasons best known to the UPA government, on June 27, 2012, the deal was directed to be re-examined, which effectively meant that the entire 11-year exercise was abandoned and the process was to be undertaken afresh. India's squadron strength was depleting because of age. This slow and casual approach of the UPA Government seriously compromised national security requirements," Jaitley said.

"Was this delay and eventual abatement of the purchase by the UPA based on collateral considerations as had been witnessed in earlier transactions such as the purchase of the 155 mm Bofors gun?

"Truth has only one version, falsehood has many," the Minister said.