Rafale deal: Congress alleges PM Modi raised benchmark price of jets despite objections
Stepping up its attack on the government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Congress Thursday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had enhanced the benchmark price for 5.2 billion Euros to 8.2 billion Euros and discarded objections by one of his ministries on the sovereign guarantee issue. It said the “entire spectrum of deception” on the deal “lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister”.
The CPI(M), too, hit out at the government demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into the deal.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala claimed that the negotiating team had “a serious dispute” on the benchmark price, which was referred to the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.
“Parrikar as also the Defence Acquisition Council headed by the Defence Minister and the chiefs of the three armed forces also didn’t agree and decide on the higher benchmark price of € 8.2 Billion. DAC referred it to Cabinet Committee on Security headed by the Prime Minister. PM Modi in CCS accepted the higher benchmark price. Why did the Prime Minister set a higher benchmark price,” he asked.
He also claimed that the Law Ministry had on December 9, 2015 “flagged the issue of “No Bank Guarantee/ Sovereign Guarantee” by the French Government and noted the concern that the contract involves huge payouts from public exchequer without actual delivery in form of advance payments.
The then Defence Minister Parikkar, Surjewala claimed, had in March 2016 refused to “opine of accepting the Letter of Comfort in lieu of bank-French government guarantee. The Air Acquisition Wing of the Defence Ministry, on the other hand, had put up a note in August of that year stating that “Bank Guarantees may be insisted from French side as required under our procedure and Indian side may bear the Bank Guarantee charges.”
He said the Law Ministry reiterated its view and conveyed it again to the Defence Ministry on August 24, but the “very next day, PM Modi in CCS accepted the ‘Letter of Comfort’ and waived off the condition of ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government Sovereign Guarantee’.”
“Why did PM Modi compromise national interests by waiving the Bank Guarantee/French Government’s Sovereign Guarantee’ in violation of Defence Procurement Procedure?” he asked.
CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the government’s own admission in the Supreme Court that there is no sovereign guarantee from the French government but only a letter of comfort which is not legally enforceable to ensure the delivery of this high-value contract was sensational.
“On the price, the government stated in March 2018, (that the) cost of the basic aircraft is Rs 670 crores per aircraft. But, in September 2016 the government had pointed out that it was Rs 60,000 crores for 36 aircraft including all additions/modifications making it Rs 1,600 crores per plane. The Dassault CEO has stated that price of 36 fly away aircraft is now equal to 18 fly away ordered in MMRCA deal earlier. These figures obviously do not corroborate,” Yechury said demanding an SC-monitored SIT probe.