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Anticipating CAG clean chit to govt on Rafale deal, Congress party now points it gun at the CAG

Congress says CAG should recuse from the Rafale probe as he was Finance Secretary in 2014-15

Ahead of the CAG report on Rafale deal that is anticipated to be submitted at the parliament tomorrow, suddenly the Congress party has raised questions on the impartiality of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India himself.

Senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal today said that current CAG Rajiv Mehrishi was finance secretary 24th October 2014 to 30th August 2015, when the negotiation for the Rafale deal was going on. Therefore, it is a clear case of ‘conflict of interest’, and Rajiv Mehrishi should recuse himself from the probe. Kapil Sibal said that as CAG was finance secretary when the Rafale negotiations were going on, he will surely say there was nothing wrong in the deal.

This indicates that the Congress party anticipates a clean chit to the government from the CAG on the Rafale deal. The Supreme Court has already refused to order a probe into the deal, dismissing several petitions filed by Congress party and other activists. Although Rahul Gandhi has been making wild allegations against the Rafale deal, there are no substances in these allegations. Therefore, this allegation looks similar to EVM hacking allegations that Congress party raises before election results are out.

Rajiv Mehrishi was appointed at CAG in September 2017, and it is not a secret that he was Finance Secretary in 2014-15, but Congress has raised the allegations of conflict of interest only now, just a day before the scheduled submission of CAG report on Rafale deal. The CAG report is ready to be tabled at the parliament, that means the audit body has already completed its probe into the deal. To ask the CAG now to recuse himself from the case means nothing at this point of time. This means Congress wants to keep the Rafale debate alive only to attack BJP till the elections, while it has nothing substantial against the actual deal.

And more importantly, like all allegations against the Rafale deal by the Congress party, this allegation is also not based on complete fact. Rajiv Mehrishi’s tenure as Finance Secretary had ended on 30th August 2015, and by than only preliminary discussions on the deal have started. India and France had announced the deal in April 2015, and the same was approved by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) in May 2015. After the DAC approval, an Indian Negotiating Team (INT) was constituted by the government to negotiate the terms and conditions of the deal with the French side.

The negotiations in the deal started in May 2015 and continued till April 2016. This means, when the negotiations for the deal for 36 Rafale aircraft was going on, Rajiv Mehrishi was Finance Secretary only for four months, after that he was appointed as the Home Secretary. Moreover, defence ministry and Indian Air Force officials were directly involved in the discussions, not the Finance Ministry.

BJP has reacted to the allegations by Congress on Twitter.

While Congress attacks for current CAG, it should also remember that its own government had appointed Shashi Kant Sharma as the CAG in 2013, who was the defence secretary from 2011 to 2013, when the AugustaWestland VVIP chopper scam had come out.

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