Deal on Rafael aircraft maintenance will cost taxpayers ₹1lakh cr, says Cong chief

Keeping up the pressure on the Modi government over the Rafale deal, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said Indian taxpayers would have to pay “Mr. 56 inch friend’s joint venture ₹1 lakh crore over five decades to maintain the aircraft”.

The “Mr 56 inch” is a not-so-subtle reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who used to refer to himself as such in election rallies in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

Company presentation

“Over the next 50 years, Indian taxpayers will pay Mr 56’s friend’s JV, (₹) 100,000 crore to maintain 36 #RafaleScam jets, India is buying. Raksha Mantri will address a press conference to deny this, as usual. But the truth is in the presentation I’m attaching,” Mr. Gandhi tweeted and tagged a document from a Reliance Infrastructure Investors presentation.

The presentation mentions that Dassault Reliance Aerospace Ltd. (DRAL), the joint venture company between French Dassault Aviation and Anil Ambani-owned Reliance group, has secured the offset contract from Dassault Aviation for ₹30,000 crore and the consequent “lifecycle opportunity” is estimated at ₹1 lakh crore over 50 years.”

On Friday, the Congress released a set of documents to allege that the Modi government had violated rules and changed norms to ensure that the renegotiated Rafale deal benefited the Reliance group.

It had accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of being untruthful about Reliance Defence getting the Rafale deal’s offset contract from its French maker Dassault Aviation.

Apart from planning to strongly raise it in Parliament, the Congress has planned protests on the issue across the country.

“If you are giving such a big defence contract, would you not see their track record. Reliance Naval Engineering (formerly Reliance Defence) has an outstanding loan of ₹9,000 crore from government owned IFCI and the matter has now gone to the National Company Law Tribunal. They had to make boats for the Navy and coastal security but they couldn’t fulfil the contract,” senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil told presspersons at a briefing on Saturday.

Workers not paid

He said Reliance Naval, based at Pipavav, had neither paid its vendors nor its employees and there had been a strike for the past three months in the port town. “Such companies should be blacklisted and you are giving them the Rafale contract,” he said.

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