Rafale ‘biggest defence scam’, Bofors nothing before it: ex-BJP ministers

NEW DELHI, AUG 8 (AGENCIES): | Publish Date: 8/9/2018 12:00:00 AM IST

 Former BJP Union ministers Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Wednesday teamed up with activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan to assert that the Rafale fighter aircraft deal was the “biggest defence scam ever”, and accused the BJP-led Centre of “compromising national security”.

The trio told a press conference here that the purchase of 36 Rafale jets from France is a “textbook case of criminal misconduct” by the government. Shourie said the deal was a “scandal much bigger than Bofors” and needs an urgent forensic audit to fix accountability. He said the secrecy clause in the agreement with France only binds India from revealing the technical specifications and operational capabilities of the aircraft, but does not restrain the government from disclosing the price.

Quoting a February 16, 2017 press release by French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence, and a financial press release statement of Dassault for 2016, Bhushan, Shourie and Sinha said the total price of 36 aircraft is about Rs. 60,000 crore, which works out to be Rs. 1,660 crore per plane.

“This is more than double the price of the aircraft under the original 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) and almost Rs. 1,000 crore higher per aircraft than the price furnished by the government itself, to Parliament on November 18, 2016,” they said in a joint press statement.

Shourie urged the opposition parties to raise the issue in the “same manner as the BJP had raised Bofors, which pales into insignificance when compared to the Rafale scandal”.

Bhushan said the original Request for Proposal (RFP) was clearly aimed at equipping the Indian Air Force with 126 aircraft and getting the State-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) 70 per cent of the offset work. “But just days before the new deal was signed, two companies were incorporated...on April 10, 2015, the Prime Minister announced that India would be buying 36 Rafales in ‘fly-away’ condition.”

Shourie added: “This announcement had four startling features: No one could make out what happened to the original RFP and the protracted negotiations in pursuance of that. 

Two, HAL was manifestly kicked out and with it the much-vaunted ‘Make in India’. Three, there was no mention now of transfer of technology. Four, the newly-minted Reliance Defence Ltd was going to be brought in to benefit from the billions of offsets that would arise from the Rafale purchase.”

Bhushan said the biggest travesty of the scandal was that national security had been compromised. “The IAF required 126 aircraft. They would be getting 36 only by 2022. If this does not compromise national interest and security, what does?”

Reiterating Shourie’s claims, the acerbic Yashwant Sinha, who was also the Union Finance minister in Vajpayee’s government, said, “CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General of India) should conduct an audit of Rafale deal and submit a report within 3 months. Bofors pales into insignificance as compared to Rafale.”



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