New Delhi, Sep 27 : Mounting a fresh attack over the Rafale deal, the Congress on Thursday alleged that the Modi government had shunted a senior official who had raised concerns over pricing and rewarded another official who had overruled him, saying there were “perks” for “pleasing” the government to cover its “corruption tracks.”
The party also accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “betraying” the nation over the deal to purchase 36 fighter jets from France.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi led the attack saying in a tweet that the government official who wanted to prevent “theft” was “fixed by the leader of thugs”.
Party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the government had shunted a whistle-blower who raised issues concerning the price and paying “300 per cent more” in the deal.
“The Modi government shunted the whistle-blower Joint Secretary (Air) who questioned the loss to government treasury by paying 300 per cent extra for 36 Rafale.
“Director General Smita Nagaraj, who overruled the joint secretary, was made a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). Perks of pleasing Modi government cover corruption tracks,” Surjewala said attaching an Indian Express report along with his tweet.
At the party’s media briefing, its spokesperson Jaipal Reddy targeted the government stating that the “scam” was getting “thicker and thicker” and “curiouser and curiouser” with every passing day.
He also referred to the newspaper report and said that before the deal was formally signed in September 2016, Joint Secretary and Acquisition Manager (Air) in Defence Ministry had raised his objections.
Reddy said the first objection was on the benchmark price of the deal announced by Modi government for purchase of 36 Rafale jets, which had been pegged higher than the benchmark price for the deal negotiated by the UPA government.
He said the official also pointed out that Eurofighter, the second aircraft that had qualified in IAF trials, had offered to supply it at 20 per cent price discount and wanted similar discount from Rafale.
“What happened. The Joint Secretary Rajiv Verma had to go on leave. There comes a superior officer who overrules the Joint Secretary who went on leave,” he said.
He said the government should come out with a response contradicting or confirming the report.
“Look at the manipulation. After all this, the process of ratification of the agreement was delayed by more than one year. It was ratified in September 2016 whereas the deal was announced in April 2015. It is an order of Rs. 60,000 crores. You are paying Rs. 41,000 crores more and took more than one year to ratify,” he said.
He claimed that the “scam” is unfolding and added that the Indian Air Force needed 126 aircraft but the government purchased only 36. ”
“What has happened to the remaining 90 aircraft? How will we be prepared if we are not equipped at the minimum level in respect of ‘AF’,” he said.
Reddy said he was not aware of any major defence commercial pact being ratified after the deal was signed. “After the deal was announced by the head of the government, what option the subordinates were left with?”
Targeting Modi, he said “the more you try to run away, the more you get drawn in the morass of this Rafale controversy.”
“Rafale scam has begun to stink and Modi has begun to sink into the sea of this scandal. There is no way he can get away from it. There is no way we will allow him to get away from it,” he said, adding that people will not forgive the government for “betrayal of the nation”.
Reddy said Modi should answer questions raised by the party and the point raised by former President of France Francois Hollande.
He also referred to remarks of French President Emmanuel Macron that he was not in charge when the agreement to buy the fighter jets was signed and said the French leader did not contradict the version of Hollande that the Indian government suggested a particular private firm as offset partner.
“As a student of politics, I am not aware of a single example of Prime Minister of India being contradicted by the former President of any responsible major world power in the last 70 years,” Reddy said.