The theatre of absurd: So absurd, that we are still trying to decipher what Rahul Gandhi meant

Nowadays Congress “Crown Prince” Rahul Gandhi eats Rafale, drinks Rafale, sleeps Rafale. French fighter jet Rafale we mean, not some soft drink brand. He has been making outrageous and bizarre allegations about the deal between governments of India and France.

But his one tweet today in this matter has left us dumbfounded, as we are unable to decipher the tweet.

The tweet is addressed to officers and jawans of Indian Air Force, and the families of pilots who were martyred in duty. And the tweet is also addressed to everyone who ever worked for Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL). He says that he understands their pain, he knows how they feel, and he will bring to justice who dishonoured and stole from them. The tweet includes two images of Amar Jawan Jyoti located at Rajpath, New Delhi.

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This is one of the most confusing tweets that we have encountered. Rahul Gandhi talks about martyrs of Indian Air Force and giving them justice. And we agree, the martyrs of IAF deserve justice, especially those who died during peacetime in various crashes. India has the rare distinction of losing more fighter planes and pilots during peacetime than war. Most brave pilots of IAF have lost their lives during routine peacetime flights, not during dangerous dogfights engaging enemy aircraft or bombing enemy territories. The MiG21, which was the main fighter plane of IAF till recently, is actually known as flying coffin in India, given its very high rate of crashes. India had purchased 874 MiG21s since 1963, out of which nearly 490 were involved in accidents or crashes, killing almost 200 pilots. HAL has been building the aircraft completely in India since 1970, with parts sourced from Russia.

There have been questions about the quality of the planes due to frequent crashes. In an explosive revelation, a top-level Russian defence official had said that India was buying substandard parts for MiG21 from third parties. He blamed the tender system followed by India to buy parts at the lowest price because genuine parts can be sourced only from fresh productions in Russia, but India was buying as high as 90 per cent of parts from old stocks left in former Soviet nations like Ukraine, Kazakhstan etc. The official alleged that those old parts were just painted over and spruced up by suppliers in those countries who place bids in India, and said that India was accepting those parts without any question.

Of course, MiG21 is not the only plane operated by IAF to have faced a high rate of crashes, almost all other planes have suffered peacetime losses due to accidents and crashes, including other versions of MiG. Several of them are assembled in India by HAL under licence from respective manufacturers. At present the Sukhoi Su-30MKI is the main fighter of Indian Air Force, this advanced Russian jet is also made in India by HAL. In the last 20 years, India has lost as many as 7 Sukhoi planes to crashes, a very high figure for an advance plane like Sukhoi, while its causality count during the war is zero. Human error is not the only reason for the crashes, faulty parts and poor maintenance is also a reason. Is Rahul Gandhi making HAL responsible for these unfortunate crashes and deaths?

Therefore, Rahul Gandhi is indeed correct in demanding justice for the death of IAF pilots. But he is targeting whom? MiG21 was bought and assembled in India during various Congress governments. Will he initiate a case against Jawaharlal Nehru government which decided to buy MiG21, HAL which assembled it, and subsequent governments which bought faulty parts, to give justice to the martyrs?  The Amar Jawan Jyoti was built in memory of soldiers martyred in India-Pakistan war of 1971 when Indira Gandhi was prime minister of India. Is Rahul Gandhi prosecuting the Indira Gandhi government for justice of 1971 war martyrs?

Coming to HAL, what pain of its workers? Has the company been shut down? Is it being downsized? No. In the year 2017-18 its turnover was over ₹18,000 crore, which has been rising steadily every year. Aircrafts currently made by the company include the Sukhoi, BAE Hawk, Tejas LCA, HJT-36 trainer, several helicopters including Dhruv, Chetak, Cheetah etc. Yes, every company wants to win every bid, but is it right to cry victimhood if a bid is not won? Is the deal to make some parts for 36 Rafale jets is so vital that HAL employees are being compared with IAF pilots who gave their lives for the country?

We need to reiterate here that all of the 36 Rafales that India is buying will be entirely made in France itself. As per offset clause of the deal, the suppliers will have to offset 50% of their deal value by either investing in India, buying from India, or transferring technology to Indian companies. Snecma Hal Aerospace, where HAL is a joint venture partner, has already been selected by HAL to be its offset partner, just like dozens of others including Reliance, Mahindra, L&T etc. It is not a make or break deal for HAL. Offset obligations can be in any industry, not necessarily in fighter planes only. HAL is not even present in many sectors where offset investments or purchases will be made.

Rahul Gandhi’s rhetoric is getting old and increasingly outlandish. What is surprising is the silence of Nero’s guests, who watch Rahul Gandhi burn down every brick that holds the wall of decent political rhetoric together.


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