The Parliament saw a massive uproar today as Congress and Rahul Gandhi decided to, yet again, bring up the Rafale deal. The Rafale deal has got a clean chit from the Supreme Court, however, the Congress has not stopped its political mudslinging.
During the discussion in the parliament today, Rahul Gandhi attempted to play a tape that Congress has been touting as the ultimate proof of wrongdoing in the Rafale case. The purported tape had a recorded conversation between the Health Minister of Goa and a nameless journalist claiming that Parrikar, the CM of Goa had claimed during a cabinet meeting that he has the Rafale files stashed in “his bedroom”.
The tape was rubbished by Parrikar and Rane. They called it doctored and demanded a probe into the matter. However, Rahul Gandhi insisted that he would want to play this tape in parliament. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blocked this attempt and Rahul Gandhi had to back up since the tape was not authenticated. Interestingly, even as the speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, told Rahul that he could not reproduce a tape or its contents unless it was authenticated, Rahul brazenly continued reading the transcript. Ultimately, his attempts were thwarted.
After an uproar in the Parliament by the usual loud-mouths of Congress, Arun Jaitley started a scathing attack on the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi. He even took potshots at Sonia Gandhi and the legacy of Congress.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that when for the second time Congress wanted to raise the Rafale issue in the parliament, he thought they wanted to say something significant. He said after hearing the lead speaker of Congress (Rahul Gandhi), everyone is disappointed as is the country since every word out of Rahul Gandhi’s mouth was a contradiction of what the Supreme Court had observed. Jaitley said that usually, the Supreme Court is considered the last word unless a matter falls within the legislative purview, but Rahul Gandhi is contradicting every observation by the Court in this matter.
Branding Rahul Gandhi as someone who has a “natural dislike for the truth”, he said every word spoken by Rahul in the last 6 months on the matter of Rafale has been an utter falsehood. He said that Rahul Gandhi has a legacy. A legacy that manufactured a foreign bank account of VP Singh’s son that turned out to be false. A legacy that concocted a conversation between Rahul Gandhi and French President Macron which turned out to be false and was also contradicted by the French government. Jaitley said that Rahul Gandhi continues to repeat falsehoods even after proven so. Now, he said, that Rahul Gandhi is scared to get the tape authenticated because his party (Congress) has manufactured that tape.
The Finance Minister said that it is unfortunate that the Grand Old Party (Congress) which has previously been led by some legends is now reduced to a party led by a man who doesn’t understand what a combat aircraft is. He said that the simplified argument of Rahul Gandhi that a Rafale jet was priced at 500 crores during Congress and is now priced at 1600 crores is akin to Kindergarten maths.
During the ensuing uproar, Jaitley said that Congress should have the courage to listen to the truth and that he will not yield.
He continued his verbal assault by saying that Congress only understands the arithmetic of money and not that of National Security.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had attempted to name Anil Ambai in the debate and the speaker had shot him doing saying that he can’t name people who are not members of the parliament. Rahul had continued then to refer to Anil Ambani as “AA”.
Following that lead, Jaitley said that since Rahul is using abbreviations, he should answer whether when he was young, he was playing on the lap of a “Mr Q” (referring to Quattrocchi of the Bofors scandal). He asked why there were letters that said “Q” had to be protected and thereafter, why was a bank account of “Q” discovered.
Training guns directly on the Gandhis, Jaitley said that in the National Herald scam, they converted a property meant for a trust into private property, Christian Michel had named Mrs Gandhi, Italian lady’s son R, and hence, it is clear that the Gandhi family understands only ‘Paisa”.
He said that he would have given the family the benefit of the doubt if it was only one case. But National Herald, Bofors and AgustaWestland are too many cases to ignore.
Jaitley said, “Rahul Gandhi in his earlier days was probably watching James Bond films. James Bond had said if it is done once, it is happenstance and it can happen. If done twice, it is coincidence and if done thrice it is a conspiracy and the conspirators of defence deals have the audacity to raise allegations against us”.
Arun Jaitley said that during Kargil, our army had only 155 mm guns. if that time we had rafale MMCA then we could have fired at the enemy from a distance of 200 km. This is why in 2001, the armed forces had said that they needed the Rafale and it was then that the government had agreed.
Jaitley said that the UPA government gave acceptance of necessity (AON). when UPA gave AON then in 2007 there was a tender invitation. He said that the government can acquire such jets in two ways. Either by tender or by the government to government agreement. After 6 bids came in, two were shortlisted. Eurofighter and Dassault. Then, during pricement, Rafale was chosen. He said that the Congress government sat on the decision for a long time. While the air force wanted the defence minister to buy the jets, the then defence minister’s colleagues were “pressuring him to not accept Rafale”. He said it was because of this pressure, that the defence minister had written in his file that the Dassault Rafale is fine, but the process by which they were considered L1, should be re-examined.
He said that when he became the Defence Minister after the Modi government came to power, this was one of the first submissions made by the Indian Air Force.
It was at this point that Congress started flying paper planes in the parliament, much to the disgust of the speaker of the house.
After the house was resumed, Arun Jaitley proceeded to answer the specific questions raised by Rahul Gandhi.
On the process of acquisition, Arun Jaitley said that in 2015 when PM Modi went to France and met Hollande, during the press statement it was mentioned that the Rafale jets would be bought per Inter-Governmental Agreement. It was also mentioned that better terms and conditions have been negotiated. After the entire process, the contract was signed and the SC too said the process was transparent.
On the pricing, the Finance Minister said that Rahul Gandhi doesn’t seem to understand basics. He said that the cost of the bare aircraft and that of a weaponised aircraft is different. He asserted that the cost of the bare aircraft is cheaper by 9% as compared to Congress negotiation and the cost of weaponised aircraft is 20% cheaper. He also said that the price escalation would only reduce with every additional jet purchased. On the question of price, he said that the Supreme Court went through the price details and was satisfied but perhaps, the political needs of the Congress were not.
Explaining the off-set details, Arun Jaitley also asserted that ridiculous numbers that Rahul Gandhi comes up with are a manufactured one since the entire offset itself is for Rs 29,000. He also said that Dassault was the one who said that they would like to purchase 3% – 4% of the offset obligation from the ‘specific industrialist’ (referring to Anil Ambani led Reliance). Ending his speech, on Joint Parliamentary Committee, Jaitley said that this is not a policy decision and the Court has also delivered its verdict, hence, there was no need for a JPC.
With this scathing response by Arun Jaitley, one wonders if Rahul Gandhi will finally drop the dangerous rhetoric on Rafale, though, we are not holding our breath over it.