A couple of hours after Congress president Rahul Gandhi called the Rafale aircraft deal a scam, the party held a press conference on Tuesday and posed eight questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the agreement. In the press briefing, attended by Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Rajeev Gowda, the party accused the Modi government of adopting “lame duck diversionary tactics” and said it was compromising national interest and security by maintaining a studied silence on the Rafale deal.
The fodder to the Congress was provided by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who earlier said in Parliament that details of the agreement for 36 jets could not be disclosed as it was “classified information”. In the conference, Congress alleged that per aircraft price as negotiated by NDA came to Rs 1570.8 crore as against Rs 526.1 crore settled during the UPA. Surjewala said “while the aircraft was sold for Rs 694.8 crore to Qatar by the same company, why was it sold for 100 per cent more price to India”.
Here are the eight questions the Congress posed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi:
1) Is it correct that per aircraft pricing of Rafale as per UPA negotiation comes to US$ 80.95 million (Rs.526.1 crore) as against Modi government’s per aircraft negotiated price of US$ 241.66 million (Rs.1570.8 crore) as per current exchange rate? Who is responsible for ‘loss to exchequer’?
2) How did the PM take a unilateral decision to buy the 36 Rafale Aircrafts by violating the mandatory ‘Defence Procurement Procedure’ and in absence of an inter-governmental agreement with France at that time?
3) Why did PM Modi not take the mandatory prior approval of ‘Cabinet Committee on Security’ before deciding to purchase 36 Rafale Aircrafts on 10th April, 2015?
4) On 8th April, 2015, the Foreign Secretary denied any proposal regarding purchase of Rafale aircraft. But, two days later the deal was inked for 36 jets. What transpired between the two days?
5) Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon were both found equals on all technical requirements. On 4th July, 2014, Eurofighter Typhoon offered to reduce prices by 20 per cent. Why did PM Modi and Defence Minister not take notice of this subsisting offer?
6) Why was the public-sector undertaking HAL by-passed for getting Rs 36,000 crore worth ‘offset contract’ despite the work share agreement dated 13.03.2014 that had already been signed between HAL and Rafale-Dassault Aviation?
7) Why has HAL been by-passed in favour of a private entity, who has zero experience of building fighter aircrafts?
8) On 17th November, 2017, the defence minister said 36 Rafale Aircrafts were purchased on ‘emergency basis’. Why is it that despite the ‘emergency purchase’ and lapse of 35 months, not a single aircraft has been delivered?