The infamous Rafale jet fighter aircrafts purchase deal of the NDA government is set to pay the price when the votes turn up at the polling stations in the next couple of months. The Congress is keeping the issue alive both in the Parliament and outside with its chief Rahul Gandhi raising the issue wherever he goes.
The charge of corruption in the deal is not the major issue for the Opposition. The number of fighter flights procured by the government is also not a major issue. It is the involvement of the Reliance family in the deal and the involvement of the Prime Minister Office in bargaining. The Reliance was never into the defence aircrafts manufacture or supply business. The Reliance Aviation too was not an experienced company to handle the deal and be known to the French firm, Dassault Aviation, which supplied the Rafale aircrafts to India’s defence wing air force. The Reliance Aviation was floated a few days before the deal was signed in France.
The big questions that the Congress poses are the presence of the Reliance Aviation in the deal and the involvement of the Prime Minister’s Office in bargaining the price. Dassault Aviation had kept the India’s Hindustan Aviation Limited (HAL) aside to favour the just-born Reliance Aviation. The HAL had been into the manufacture and supply of the fighter aircrafts for the country’s defence requirements for over several decades and is a known public sector company from the country across the world.
One wonders how a new-born and not-known Reliance was preferred by the Dassault to be their offshore partner in India to handle the aircrafts deal if it were not for the involvement of the Prime Minister’s Office or recommendation by the Prime Minister himself. Interestingly, the Prime Minister had visited France in March 2015 when he announced the deal between India and France to procure 36 aircrafts. A little later, the Reliance had come into existence and had signed agreement with the Dassualt and together they floated the Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL) to handle the deal.
This is where the scam is suspected and it is where the Modi government fail to answer. While choosing an offshore partner by the Dassault Aviation is its own prerogative, Reliance is not into the business to be known to the Dassulat to opt it against the 100-year old HAL. The Congress says that the Prime Minister had introduced the Reliance to the Dassulat and recommended for the partnership only to favour Anil Ambani. The friendship between Modi and the Ambani family is a known fact and it is where the scam is suspected. The Modi government will have to pay the price for this friendship, if voters take the scam seriously as it is bigger than the Bofors scam of the previous years.