Congress goes to CAG, says report soon in Parliament
New Delhi, Sep. 19 (IANS): Escalating its attack on the Rafale deal, a high-level Congress delegation on Wednesday met Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) Rajiv Mehrishi with its demand for a probe into the Narendra Modi government’s deal with France to purchase 36 fighter jets.
The part has been saying that the deal has caused “loss” to the exchequer and “endangered” national security.
The party later claimed that the CAG told the delegation that the auditor was examining the entire issue and would soon submit a report to Parliament.
The delegation that included party leaders — Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma, Ahmed Patel and Randeep Singh Surjewala — also submitted a memorandum to the CAG giving the history of the proposal to buy Rafale fighter jets, the process for which began in 2007.
The memorandum said that “unilateral” purchase of 36 Rafale jets from Dassault Aviation has caused “loss to public exchequer, endangered national security, bypassed Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to benefit crony friends, and violated the mandatory provisions of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)”.
The memorandum to the CAG marks escalation by the Congress of its fight against the Modi government over the Rafale issue, on which the party has held press conferences in different parts of the country.
Former Defence Minister AK Antony had on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Modi led-NDA government of compromising national security by reducing the number of fighter planes to be procured from 126 as negotiated by the UPA government to 36. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had countered the charges and held the erstwhile UPA regime responsible for the exclusion of HAL in the deal.
“CAG told us that they were examining the entire Rafale deal including the payments and procedures made,” Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala told the media after meeting the CAG.
“Modi will be exposed soon…as CAG has assured (us) that they will look at all the documents that we brought in the public domain and very soon it will submit a report in Parliament,” he said.
Surjewala said Modi is “personally responsible” for violating the DPP and exclusion of the HAL from getting an offset contract worth over INR 30,000 crore from Dassault Aviation.
The memorandum includes “acts of commission and omission” by the government in the deal announced by Modi in April 2015.
Pointing to the violations of DPP by Modi, the memorandum states: “No mandatory prior approval of ‘Cabinet Committee on Security’ was taken before announcing purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft on 10th April, 2015.
“Mandatory requirement of DPP for ‘Price Discovery’ through the instrumentalities of ‘Contract Negotiation Committee’ (CNC) and ‘Price Negotiation Committee’ (PNC) were not followed by the PM. Transfer of Technology to HAL for manufacture of Rafale aircraft in India was also sacrificed by the PM.
“Not only this, the decision of Modi in proceeding to announce purchase of 36 Rafale ‘off-the-shelf’ on April 10, 2015, when an international tender was already under negotiation as also the subsequent cancellation of the international tender on 24th June 2015, is clearly violative of the DPP,” it said.
It said that against the originally negotiated price of the UPA deal, the Modi government’s purchase price “is over 300 per cent higher, involving an extra outflow of money from public exchequer of Rs 41,000 crore, approximately”.
The party said that Rafale-Dassault Aviation sold 48 Rafale aircraft to Egypt and Qatar in 2015, and the 2016 annual report of the company reflects their price as Euro 7.9 billion as against the price of 36 Rafale aircrafts sold to India for Euro 7.5 billion.
“The price of Rafale aircraft sold to Egypt/Qatar comes to INR 1,319.80 crore as against the price per aircraft of Rs 1,670.70 crore being paid by India. Compared with these two countries, India is paying an extra amount of INR 350.90 crore per aircraft. Total extra payment by India would be INR 12,632 crore, approximately.”
The party also alleged that the private entity “now claims to have secured an additional Rs 1,00,000 crore of ‘Lifecycle Cost Contract’ over and above the INR 30,000 crore ‘offset contract’, taking the total value to be an astounding INR 1,30,000 crore”.
It also accused Sitharaman of “lying” about the offset contract.
“While Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence Ltd claim that a INR 30,000-crore offset contract has been awarded, Sitharaman in a press release (07.02.2018) claimed that no offset contract had been awarded.
“These lies were being dished out to mislead the country despite the fact that the French Defence Minister met Sitharaman in Delhi in the morning and then proceeded to lay the foundation stone of Reliance Defence Factory in Mihan, Nagpur.
“We request the CAG to undertake its constitutional duty by conducting a time-bound special and forensic audit by examining the record threadbare, so that the truth is told to the people, and affixing the responsibility of Modi government,” it added.