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Jaitley, Rahul Gandhi slug it out on Rafale deal


Press Trust of India New Delhi
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Congress president Rahul Gandhi today battled over the Rafale deal with the former accusing the opposition party of "peddling untruth", and the latter responding by calling it "the Great Robbery".
It all started with Jaitley, in a Facebook blog, posting a set of 15 questions for Gandhi in response to Congress posers on the multi-billion dollar deal.
He said the 36 Rafale fighter jets which the BJP-led NDA government is purchasing are 20 per cent cheaper than the ones the previous UPA government had received offers for.
Charging Congress with carrying out a "false campaign", he sought Gandhi's response on questions varying from delays in finalising the fighter jet order to procedural knowledge and foreign supplier being allowed freedom to choose private partner to meet offset requirement.
He also sought to bring up the Bofors ghost, asking if delays in decision on buying fighter jets during the Congress regime were based on collateral considerations like the ones witnessed in the purchase of Bofors guns.
He asked Gandhi to respond, failing which he would come up with "further specific facts" that they were "merely peddling falsehood".
Gandhi responded by calling the deal "the Great Rafale Robbery" and alluded to Prime Minister Narendra Modi trying to protect his business friend.
"Mr Jaitley, thanks for bringing the nation's attention back to the GREAT #RAFALE ROBBERY! How about a Joint Parliamentary Committee to sort it out? Problem is, your Supreme Leader is protecting his friend, so this may be inconvenient. Do check & revert in 24 hrs. We're waiting!," he tweeted.
Jaitley replied to this by stating that a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Bofors deal had called kickbacks "winding up" charges and the whole world rejected the findings.
"Mr. Gandhi, you have not attempted to answer my questions on the Rafale purchase in the interest of national security'. When no answers are given, obviously no answers could have been given by those who resort only to falsehood," he tweeted. "Mr. Gandhi, truth holds together, falsehood falls apart that is the fate of your Rafale falsehood."

In another tweet he said: "Let me remind you of a JPC the Congress Government appointed in 1987 on the Bofors deal. It was headed by Mr. Shankaranand. It gave a report that the kickbacks were winding up' charges. The whole world rejected the findings of that JPC. Why a JPC to satisfy your falsehood?"

Earlier in the day, Jaitley said in the Facebook blog that the deal NDA government had entered into with France on April 10, 2015 for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets was on better terms than the one agreed to in 2007 under the UPA regime.
French manufacturer Dassault had offered to supply 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft in 2007.
Refusing to disclose details of the deal such as the price of the aircraft, due to constraints placed by "secrecy clause" in the contract, he said the Congress allegations that NDA government agreed to pay a higher price and is favouring a private industrialist are "complete falsehood".
He then went on to pose 15 questions that included one about the decision-making paralysis under the UPA regime which led to the delay of over one decade in ordering the aircraft, which compromised national security.
"Can Rahul Gandhi and the Congress deny that the Indian government has no contract whatsoever with any private industry in relation with the Rafale aircraft supplies? In fact, 36 of the Rafale aircraft with their Indian adaptations are going to be sent to India and there is no manufacturing of these aircraft in India," he said.
Congress has repeatedly alleged a "scam" in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets claiming the cost per aircraft in 2012 was agreed at Rs 526.10 crore while the one signed by the Modi government costs Euro 7.5 billion (Rs 1,670.70 crore per aircraft).
Its leader and Rajya Sabha MP Partap Singh Bajwa had on Sunday called the deal as the "biggest scam in country's defence sector post independence."

Stating that the Rafale controversy was based on "complete falsehood", Jaitley said it was expected from national political parties and their responsible leaders to keep themselves informed of the basic facts before they enter a public discourse on defence transactions.
"Congress party's false campaign launched on Rafale aircraft deal based on peddled untruth has been casting a cloud on the Inter-Governmental agreement & seriously compromising national security," he said.
Jaitley said Congress and Gandhi were guilty on three counts - delaying the deal by over a decade compromising national security, speaking of falsehood on pricing and procedure, and further delaying the defence procurement by raising these issues.
"Rahul Gandhi deny that when the add-ons such as India-specific adaptations, weaponry, etc. are installed on the basic aircraft, the UPA price, which was mentioned in the 2007 L1 offer, would be at least 20% costlier than the more favourable price negotiated by the NDA?," he added.
Jaitley asked if Gandhi was aware that there was a price escalation clause in the bid received during UPA regime, and if the Congress was aware that basic aircraft price is 9 per cent cheaper under the NDA than it was under the UPA.
Other questions pertained to Gandhi's knowledge of defence procurement procedure and on offset policy that allows a supplier to select any number of Indian partners.

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First Published: Aug 29 2018 | 8:50 PM IST

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