The political war of words over the Rafale deal escalated on Friday. While the Congress accused the BJP-led government of having given a “windfall” gain to Dassault Aviation — the makers of the aircraft — the BJP hit back, saying the “public would see the political game” the Opposition party is playing.
Addressing a press conference, former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said the government has “wronged” the country by denying the Air Force 90 fighter aircraft that they desperately needed by reducing the number of jets to be brought from 126 to 36. He said the government paid at least Rs 186 crore more per aircraft and reiterated the party’s demand for setting up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the deal.
Chidambaram’s statements came in the wake of a report in The Hindu on Friday.
“It seems to me that Dassault is laughing all the way to the bank. The government has wronged the country in two ways: firstly, it has compromised national security by denying to the Air Force 90 fighter aircraft that they desperately need; secondly, it has purchased two squadrons that will cost about €25 million more per aircraft. At the 2016 exchange rate, €25 million is equal to Rs 186 crore. India will pay Rs 186 crore more per aircraft,” Chidambaram told reporters.
“The windfall to Dassault is highly questionable. The windfall to Dassault is undeserved. The windfall to Dassault was certainly not through as per negotiation, it was a deliberate decision,” he said.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had been claiming that the BJP government paid around Rs 1,600 crore per aircraft as compared to the price of Rs 526 crore negotiated by the UPA — an increase of over three times. Asked about Rahul’s claims, Chidambaram said “I am simply doing my calculations based on the latest report. My calculations may be wrong. You may be better placed to make your own calculations. I have made my calculations based on the report and it appears to me, and if I am wrong I should be corrected, that we are paying 25 million Euro per aircraft more.”
Countering the charge, Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani said the “malicious campaign” of the Congress has already been exposed and the “public would see the political game” that the party is playing on the issue.
“The Supreme Court, cognizant of all facts of the matter has issued unequivocally its statement with regard to this particular issue, the Defence Minister has eloquently and strongly spoken on every detail with regard to this particular issue, the CAG has every file in relation to this particular issue and those for whom the Supreme Court, Parliament and CAG are not enough, and will use this issue for their own political ends, I will only say, that public knows all,” Irani told reporters. “The public will see the Congress’s lies and the truth of the BJP,” she added. She alleged that Congress has abandoned the nation’s interests for its “false propaganda”.