Releases documents to allege discrepancies in Defence Ministry’s statement

The Congress on Friday launched a fresh offensive against the Modi government over the Rafale deal by pointing out “discrepancies in the government’s responses so far”, and announced that it would insist on a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue in Parliament next week.

Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted with hashtag #Rafalescam to allege that $20 billion is the “actual benefit” to the Indian partner of the joint venture of Dassault Aviation (DA), the French company that makes Rafale fighter jets.

The party’s Mumbai unit announced a street protest on Monday.

Releasing a set of documents, Congress’s communication chief Randeep Surjewala alleged that there were discrepancies in the Defence Ministry’s earlier statement (issued on February 7, 2018) that claimed “no Indian offset partner for the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale aircraft has been selected by the vendor [DA]” and the 2016 annual report of Dassault Aviation that clearly stated Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group will “manage its offsets provided for in the country by the Make in India initiative”.

Though the Defence Ministry did not issue any formal reaction, a well-placed source said, “As per contract, details of Indian offset partners will be confirmed by Dassault Aviation either at the time of seeking offset credits or one year prior to discharge of offset obligations. So far, the vendor has not submitted any proposal for offset discharge.”

The Congress further alleged that on February 16, 2017, a press release from Reliance Defence Ltd., the joint venture partner, put the value of the deal at €7.87 billion, or approximately ₹60,000 crore, despite the Modi government claiming it cannot disclose owing to a secrecy clause.

Lifecycle cost

In one of the documents, released by the Congress, the Reliance group said that over a 50-year period, the lifecycle opportunity cost of the deal would come to ₹1 lakh crore.

“Dear Trolls, I apologise for my earlier tweet in which I stated Mr 56’s friend’s JV, received 4 Billion US$’s of “off set” contracts. I forgot to add the 16 Billion US$ RAFALE “lifecycle” contract. 20 BILLION US$, is the actual benefit. So Sorry!!” mocked Mr. Gandhi’s tweet.

Mr. Surjewala alleged that Reliance Defence was formed 12 days before the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by the Prime Minister in France on April 10, 2015 and did not have the licence to manufacture fighter jets.

He said that another company, Reliance Aerostructure — registered two weeks after the announcement of 36 Rafale jets — was given the licence to manufacture planes by the Defence Ministry, though it did not have any land or building on February 22, 2016 when the licence was granted.

The Congress alleged that the Modi government cancelled the UPA government’s deal that mandated government-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. only to suit a private company.

Crony capitalism

“The culture of crony capitalism is the DNA of the Modi government. It is truer than ever in case of the ₹60,145 crore Rafale deal …. Does the Prime Minister represent the interest of private companies and private industrial houses or is his duty and obligation to protect an existing signed contract between an experienced government company,”asked Mr. Surjewala.

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