Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram Saturday tossed four questions to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Central Government in connection with the controversial Rafale deal which in his view leads to ‘grave suspicions.’
The Congress party kick-started a nationwide campaign, as part of which they will hold 100 press conferences across the country to seek answers from the Centre over the Rafale deal.
Chidambaram, holding a press conference here, raised four questions to the Centre. The questions were: Is it correct that the UPA government priced the aircraft at Rs 526 crore and the NDA contract prices the aircraft at Rs 1,670 crore? If these numbers are correct, then will someone please explain why the prices have gone up three times?
The second question is why was the Defence procurement procedure ignored? Why was the contract negotiation committee kept in the dark? And, why was the Cabinet committee and security not taken into confidence?
The third question is that if there was a work share agreement between the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and the Dassault - alright you went in into a new contract -- but why did you not tell the Dassault that offset must be given to HAL or HAL must be considered for offset? Why was the Dassault given the freedom to choose its own offset partner and HAL was kept out of the entire arrangement? What wrong did HAL do?
The fourth question is that what happened to the transfer of technology? India would have gained. HAL would have gained. Our aviation industry would have gained if the Dassault technology is transferred to India. When you bought the 36 aircraft, why didn’t you insist that the Dassault must transfer technology for future aircraft to India.
“These are the four questions for which there are no answers so far. What is worse is that the government is continuing to maintain that the price cannot be revealed,” Chidambaram said.
The senior Congress leader further highlighted how “on November 17, 2017 Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman while addressing a press conference was asked what is the price of the aircraft that you are buying? She turned to the Defence Secretary and said, ‘Mr Secretary, please tell the price to the press later,’ and she told reporters that Press Secretary will tell you the price later. This is on record.”
“The government’s further argument is that the previous governments have never revealed the price of such sensitive acquisitions,” Chidambaram said and later started highlighting the details regarding various deals that the Congress did with other countries when it was in power.
“All of this taken together leads to grave suspicions. We are asking these questions in the Parliament. We are asking these questions in public. Cabinet committee and security was kept in the dark when the deal was announced in France. We want to know why they were kept in the dark. Why didn't they meet one or two days before the Prime Minister's visit to France and get it approved there? It will be an issue before the elections,” Chidambaram said.
Since a long time, the Congress has repeatedly been attacking the BJP on the Rafale deal on several occasions. In 2008, India had signed a deal with France based Dassault Aviation to purchase 36 Rafale jets, which is slated to be one of the world's biggest military procurement in recent history and could cost the Indian government USD 15 billion. (With inputs from agencies)
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