New Delhi : The Congress on Tuesday mounted an attack on the ruling NDA for its alleged involvement in a “huge scam” of canceling an UPA time deal to buy 126 Rafale combat aircraft from the French firm Dassault Aviation to help benefit its “capitalist friend” Anil Ambani, who later entered into a joint venture deal with the same firm for the new Indian contract for 36 aircraft.
The government is now buying 36 aircraft through Ambani at a cost of Rs 60,000 crore as against the UPA’s deal of buying 126, with technology transfer agreement, for just Rs 54,000 crore.
The Reliance Defence chief visited France on April 10, 2015 and his company inked a joint venture deal with Dassault in February this year for producing the same aircraft after the government cancelled the earlier deal for 126 Rafale fighter aircraft, Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala alleged.
He told a press conference here that this machination of the NDA to help Ambani has caused heavy loss to the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was to manufacture 108 of these medium multi-role combat aircraft in its factories in India as transfer of technology.
The Congress has dug out the scam to use it in the Gujarat Assembly elections, of which nominations for the first phase began on Tuesday, to show that even the NDA is not clean but involved in massive corruption of helping out an industrialist friend, compromising both national interests and security.
That the NDA government put HAL to loss is breathing down the neck of the Indian Air Force (IAF) to buy the light combat aircraft, Tejas, produced by it and not insist on the US fighter jet F-16 or the Swedish Saab JAS-39 despite the IAF faulting Tejas on many counts, risking the country’s sky security.
The deal struck on December 12, 2012 was for supply of 126 aircraft at the base price of US$ 10.2 billion (Rs 54,000 crore at that time), including 18 to come in flyaway condition and the rest in India, with a rider that Dassault will invest 50% of the sale price in India.
Surjewala said the NDA overturned the deal by announcing to buy not 18 but 36 in flyaway condition during his France visit on 10.04.2015 unilaterally without following the defence procurement procedure, keeping in dark even then defence minister Manohar Parrikar, who is now Goa”s chief minister.
Later on July 30, 2015, the NDA government cancelled the purchase deal for procurement of 126 fighter aircraft and entered into a deal with Dassault on 23.09.2016 to buy 36 Rafale fighters for US$ 8.7 billion.
The deal was sealed at US$ 241.66 per aircraft that too without transfer of technology at triple the price of US$ 80.95 million (Rs 526.1 crore) per aircraft negotiated by the UPA government with the transfer of technology to HAL, Surjewala said.
The real scam unearthed within 13 days of the government signing the deal to purchase 36 Rafale aircraft on 03.10.2016 when Ambani”s Reliance Defence Limited tied up with Dassault for a joint venture for defence production in India. More clarity about the scam emerged on February 16 this year when the Reliance Defence through its subsidiary Reliance Defence and Aerospace Limited inked the joint venture deal with Dassault and its website R.Infra said it was undertaking offset obligation of Rs 30,000 crore with Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft India is to buy.
Surjewala said it shows that the total cost of 36 Rafale aircraft being bought by the NDA government is Rs 60,000 crore as against the Rs 54,000-crore deal made by the UPA government for 126 aircraft and that too with technology transfer clause.
He said the NDA must answer why the government is buying 36 Rafale aircraft at such a highly inflated price.