New Delh (Rahnuma) : Pointing out that the Indian Air Force was never consulted before announcing the 59,000-crore Rafale fighter jet deal with France in 2015 — as revealed in the document shared by the government with petitioners demanding a probe into the deal — Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has admitted to “theft” before the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the centre submitted to the Supreme Court a 14-page document that details the steps in the decision-making process that led to the purchase of 36 Rafale jets. A redacted version of the document shared with the petitioners included details on the choice of India offset partners by Dassault, the company that manufactures the Rafale fighter jets.
The document shows that PM Modi announced on April 10, 2015, in Paris, that his government was buying 36 Rafale jets from France. But the approval of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), the decision-making body in military procurements, for the jets was taken only on May 13, 2015.
“Modi ji has admitted to his theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit, he admitted to changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and put Rs. 30,000 crore in (Anil) Ambani’s pocket. Picture abhi baki hai mere dost (It’s not over yet),” the Congress president tweeted today.
On November 2, the Supreme Court had ordered the centre to put its decision-making process in the public domain amid corruption allegations by opposition parties on how Rafale manufacturer Dassault zeroed in on Anil Ambani’s debt-ridden defence company to partner with in India.
The centre submitted the document on Monday and even though it had said pricing details were classified, those were also submitted separately in a sealed cover.
The Congress has been alleging that PM Modi had closed the deal without any transparency allegedly to benefit Anil Ambani. Dassault has to invest 50 per cent of the overall value of the deal or Rs. 30,000 crore in partnering with defence manufacturers in India.
Dassault has denied any influence by the Indian government and said it was under no pressure to select Reliance as its partner for a huge joint venture in Nagpur that will manufacture parts for fighter planes.
“We chose Ambani by ourselves. We already have 30 partners other than Reliance,” Dassault CEO Eric Trappier told news agency ANI on Tuesday.
The offset arrangement does not involve the 36 jets that are part of the current deal.
The Congress has accused the government of deliberately scrapping a deal that the previous UPA government had negotiated with Dassault, for 126 Rafale jets under which 18 jets were to be supplied in a ready-to-fly condition and 108 were to be manufactured along with state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru.
The government’s document said the UPA deal ”could not conclude mainly due to unresolved issued related to 108 aircraft to be manufactured in India. These issues pertained to lack of common understanding between HAL and Dassault Aviation.”
On the breakdown of talks with HAL, Mr Trappier said: “It’s because the 126 didn’t go smooth that the government of India had to reconfigure to urgently acquire 36 from France. And then I took the decision to continue with Reliance, and HAL even said in the last few days that they were not interested to be part of the offset. So, it has been done by my decision and the decision of Reliance to invest in a new private company.”
Mr Trappier said the money being invested was not going to Reliance directly but into a Joint Venture that included Dassault.
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) that Indian Air Force Chief BS Dhanoa says can be a “game-changer” and booster for India’s defence.
Former Union Ministers Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and lawyer Prashant Bhushan are among the petitioners.