The Rafale deal has been in the middle of a political storm for the past few months. With Congress and Rahul Gandhi disregarding even the Supreme Court verdict that gave a clean chit to the Rafale deal, the mudslinging that has become synonymous with Rahul Gandhi’s brand of politics is far from over.
In an interview Prime Minister Modi gave to Smita Prakash of ANI yesterday, he had mentioned how Congress is playing with National security by playing politics over Rafale. Continuing that process, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, in his interview to Hindustan, has said that once Congress comes to power, the offset contract will be given to the public sector company Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) as that is good for the country.
Ironically, a few weeks back, a Parliamentary panel headed by Kharge had expressed ‘serious concerns‘ over HAL’s ‘failure’ to timely provide the required number of Tejas aircraft to the Airforce, which according to the panel would adversely affect the Indian Airforce’s combat capabilities.
It appears that even after the Supreme Court asserting that the off-set partner option was solely Dassault’s and the French President himself confirming the same, Congress plans to continue its rhetoric hoping their allegations stick.
Without offering any solution to how the Congress aims to improve the efficiency of the state-run company, Kharge accused the current Modi government of siding with a private company instead of HAL, which Kharge-led panel feels is not equipped to fulfil the requirements.
Back in 2015 also Dassault had also expressed its inhibition in partnering with HAL, flagging its concern about the technical inadequacies of HAL. An April 2013 article in India Today, from the time UPA 2 was in power, states how ‘HAL’s poor track record overshadowed IAF plans to buy the Rafale jets’.
The Congress seems to have developed renewed confidence in HAL just to take potshots at the Modi government even after concluding in a PAC report that HAL’s capabilities are not up to the mark.
With this new-found confidence, one must ask then, why Congress chose to purchase VVIP choppers from AgustaWestland when they could have just asked HAL to manufacture the choppers?
The Congress-led UPA in February 2010 got into a deal with AgustaWestland to purchase 12 AW101 choppers for the Indian Air Force. These helicopters were to be used for flying the VIPs like the Prime Minister, President, Congress President Sonia Gandhi etc. In 2004, when the UPA government took over, the flying altitude capability was reduced from 6,000-metre altitude to 4,500-metre altitude, expanding the scope for eligible bidders. Six years after a change in these conditions, AgustaWestland emerged as a winner. In 2013, the first charges of corruption had emerged and Congress had to put the deal on hold, which was eventually cancelled in January 2014, few weeks before the country went for elections. This scrapping of the deal led to an estimated loss of Rs. 2,666 crore to the exchequer.
Christian Michel, who is the alleged middleman, has started to spill the beans. He has named Ahmed Patel, ‘Mrs Gandhi’ and ‘Italian lady’s son R’. One wonders if the VVIP chopper contract was given to AgustaWestland because there was more scope for quintessential Congress scam or because Congress did not trust the capabilities of HAL even then?
Mallikarjun Khare, who is a known close confidante of the Gandhi family has displayed yet again how Congress is willing to play with national security if it means the narrative thereof would help them politically. The Rafale deal is an important one for India and the importance of it was noted even by the Supreme Court. It is an established fact that Dassault then did not want to partner with HAL. It is also an established fact the Kharge himself, as the head of the PAC has remarked on the inefficiency of HAL. For Congress to bring this issue up over and over again could mean only 2 things. Firstly, it believes that it has a fighting chance in 2019 only if they somehow create the perception that PM Modi is no better than Congress when it comes to shady defence deals, secondly, it believes that repeating a lie a thousand times might turn it into the truth since they underestimate the intelligence of the country and its citizens.
The only thing the cacophony around Rafale proves is that Congress is equally dangerous when it is out of power as when they are in power.