New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday called the Rafale deal with France a scam after Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Parliament that details of the agreement for 36 jets could not be disclosed as it was “classified information”.
Gandhi, who had also raked up the issue during the Gujarat elections, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally went to Paris to change the deal and favour a “businessman”.
“The Defence Minister says that we will not reveal the amount paid for buying Rafale aircraft. What does this mean? This only means there is a scam. Modi ji personally went to Paris, he changed the deal. The whole country knows about it,” ANI quoted Gandhi as saying.
Sitharaman’s response came to a question by Samajwadi Party member Naresh Agrawal. Agrawal had sought to know why the government was not disclosing details of the multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA) deal in which Congress had alleged that the price of the fighter jets being paid by NDA government was higher than what was finalised by the UPA in a previous deal.
“As per Article 10 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement between Governments of India and France on the purchase of Rafale aircraft, the protection of the classified information and material exchanged under IGA is governed by the provisions of the Security Agreement signed between Government of France and Government of India in 2008,” IANS quoted Sitharaman as saying.
Last year, Congress had alleged that a “huge scam is brewing” in the procurement of the 36 fighter jets from France and accused the PM of promoting interests of Reliance Defence Limited. “Can you explain ‘Reliance’ on someone with nil experience in aerospace for Rafale deal? ‘Self Reliance’ is obviously a critical aspect of ‘Make in India’,” Gandhi had tweeted.
In response to a question whether a private sector company was included in the deal, Sitharaman said that neither any public sector undertaking nor private sector industry was included in the agreement. Sitharaman has in past said that the allegations were motivated and baseless, and the price that the Narendra Modi led government had finalised was lesser than the earlier deal.
Following the controversy that erupted lat year, Reliance Defence Limited had issued a statement. Referring to the allegation that the PM promoted its interests, it had said, “the Joint Venture between Reliance Aerostructure Ltd and Dassault Aviation is a bilateral agreement between two private companies. Dassault Aviation selected Reliance Aerostructure Ltd as its joint venture partner. The Indian Government has no role to play in this.”
India and France signed the inter-government agreement for buying 36 Rafale fighters, off the shelf, on September 23, 2016, following long negotiations on the deal. Under the deal during the UPA regime, 126 fighter jets were to be bought, and included a number of fighters being assembled in India.