Participating in the debate on Rafale deal in Lok Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley presented a strong defence on behalf of the government, and demolished the various allegations that Congress party has been making about the deal. During his speech, Jaitley made a very interesting reference about Eurofighter, which had lost out to Rafale in the bid to supply the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) to India.
Speculating about why Congress party may be trying to scuttle the Rafale deal, Jaitley commented that the speciality about UPA decision making is that “if the aircraft being selected is not the one whose commerce you have dealt with then delay the transaction, make it impossible”. He was hinting that while the tendering process for the purchase of 126 fighter aircraft was going on, Congress party was already negotiating with one of the bidders. But all those backroom deals went haywire when Rafale emerged as the winner after extensive evaluation by experts, which included the Indian Air Force.
FM Arun Jaitley in Lok Sabha: There is a speciality about UPA in decision making that is if the aircraft being selected is not the one whose commerce you have dealt with then delay the transaction, make it impossible
— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2019
This should be noted that although Rafale was declared as the winner of the bid, the deal never proceeded from that point and the UPA government did not sign any deal with Dassault to purchase the Rafale aircraft, although IAF was in desperate need of fighter jets in view of depleting squadron numbers.
Arun Jaitley informed the Lok Sabha that after Rafale had won the deal, the then defence minister’s colleagues were “pressuring him to not accept Rafale”. He said it was because of this pressure, that A. K. Antony had written in his file that the Dassault Rafale is fine, but the process by which they were considered as lowest bidder should be re-examined. Jaitley said that this was informed by IAF after the Modi government came to power.
During the speech of Jaitley in Lok Sabha, some Congress MPs were seen flying paper planes in the house. When the speaker of the house Sumitra Mahajan scolded the MPs for doing so, Jaitley quipped that these paper planes are being thrown in memory of the Eurofighter deal, making an almost direct accusation that Congress was batting on behalf of the European consortium which makes the Eurofighter Typhoon jet.
— ANI (@ANI) January 2, 2019
Although this is the first time a probable Eurofighter link in the Rafale allegations was raised in the Parliament, it was being rumoured for some time. Earlier, it was alleged that Eurofighter sales director had met senior leaders of two political parties in India to raise allegations of a scam in the Rafale deal. It is also rumoured that Rahul Gandhi had met the company officials when he was in Germany in August 2018. According to allegations, the narrative against the Rafale deal has been built up by experts in the US and Europe, based on inputs from Eurofighter.
The mention of Eurofighter by the Finance Minister in the Lok Sabha indicates a change of gear by the NDA government. So far, the almost daily allegations by Congress party and activists against the Rafale deal was countered by the government sporadically. But in recent weeks, there is a marked increase in aggression against the Congress party. BJP stepped up its attacks on the AgustaWestland deal following the extradition of middleman Christian Michel to India, and Michel’s revelations about ‘Mrs Gandhi’, ‘Italian lady’s son R’ etc to the ED.
On the other hand, the noose is tightening around arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, a close associate of Robert Vadra. He has been hiding in UK since sensitive defence documents were recovered from his residence during an Income Tax raid. He had also tried to forge a tie-up with Dassault, but the French aviation company refused after his links with Vadra was known to them. Recently, several establishments and persons linked with Vadra and Bhandari were raided by ED, and a look-out notice was issued by the agency against one executive assistant of Robert Vadra.