Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar Monday said that his predecessor A K Antony’s notings on the Rafale file had virtually paralysed the bureaucracy and claimed that no bureaucrat “worth his salt” would have taken any decision on the Rafale deal.
Parrikar claimed that Antony’s decisions on blacklisting defence companies were a “panic reaction”.
India recently purchased 36 Rafale jets in fly-away condition from France, altering an earlier deal in which India was supposed to acquire 126 aircraft — 18 jets in fly-away condition and the remaining 108 to be built in India by Hindustan Aeronautics after transfer of technology.
Antony had Saturday raised questions over the BJP government’s decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets and asked it to clarify whether it followed the defence procurement procedure while concluding the agreement.
Referring to the recently scrapped deal for 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft, Parrikar told The Indian Express, “The file came to Antony, he made a noting saying that let CNC (contract negotiations committee) decide the price… The next line is very strange — ‘However, the methodology, procedure and the LCC (life cycle cost) model used to determine the L-1 (lowest bidder) may be reviewed after the price negotiation is completed’… L-1 was declared in 2012. Antony went, Jaitley became defence minister, then I took over but Request for Proposal for Rafale was going around in circles. No officer worth his salt would have taken any decision because of Antony’s comment, plus there were many other problems.”
Parrikar added that if the minister does not take decisions, “the department can run on bureaucrats”.
The Defence Minister also responded to Antony’s criticism that the government was “anti-national” since it slashed funds for the mountain strike corps, saying that the Congress never made any budgetary provisions for the unit. “I slashed? Where is the fund? Paper pe approve kar diya matlab…dikha do mujhe. Let them show… show the money in the budget. Cabinet approval is a bottleneck point which has to be removed. Money does not come automatically, you have to provide it… You cannot pretend to have money… They have only technically sanctioned… Where is the provision in the budget? I have told the Army, first consolidate what we have already raised, make provision for it and then come for approval.”
He also took a dig at Rahul Gandhi, saying that if the funds for the one rank, one pension police were Rs 500 crore, as claimed by the Congress vice-president, he would “sign the OROP papers today”.
Adding that the defence procurement procedure is being revised and should be ready in two months, Parrikar said the government is working on a new approach towards blacklisting defence companies and representatives in defence deals. “That (blacklisting) has been a panic reaction because there has always been the involvement of agents in this… That is why there was panic reaction. We are revising the policy… Blacklisting will be the final punishment… There will be punishments of penalties depending on the type of crime.”