Rafale – Lies, Shortlived lies and now further lies
By- Arun Jaitley
All the lies spoken on the Rafale deal has been exposed. The Supreme Court judgement is clear. Every word said against the Government has proved to be false. Every “fact” stated by the vested interests against the deal has proved to be manufactured. Truth has once again established its primacy. The creators of falsehood will still persist with falsehood even at the cost of their own credibility. Only their captive constituencies will clap.
The credentials of the disruptors
Rafale is a combat aircraft with its weaponry required to improve the strike ability of the Indian Airforce. India is geographically located in a sensitive region. It needs to protect itself. The need for such a weapon cannot be overstated. When such defence equipments are purchased obviously some suppliers loose out. The suppliers are clever people. They understand who the “vulnerables” in India are.
As a political opponent Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to the deal was a desperate attempt. It was the UPA Government which had shortlisted the Rafale as it was technically the best and the cheapest. PM Modi in an Inter- Governmental agreement struck a deal with the French Government to further improve the terms and conditions including the prices on which the UPA had agreed.
Rahul’s opposition was obviously for three reasons :-
Firstly, he could not tolerate the fact that PM Modi has run the cleanest ever Government in recent Indian history. It is a scam-free Government where middlemen and scamsters had to take refuge outside the country.
Secondly, Rahul Gandhi has the burden of a stigmatised legacy which was tainted by Bofors. He was desperate trying to bring an ‘immoral equivalence’ between Rafale and Bofors. But Rafale did not have middlemen, no kickbacks and obviously no Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Thirdly, with international cooperation and Governmental cooperation, scamsters of the UPA Government are now being extradited into India. There is obviously a scare of who will talk how much.
Rahul Gandhi got instant support from the “career nationalists” of Lutyens Delhi. The permanent PIL petitioners have always preferred disruptions over concerns of national security. They are willing to cooperate with any one who hurts India. A new job creation has taken place in Delhi with the “loud mouths on hire” and “subject experts” notwithstanding their conflict of interest. The disruptionists alliance was, therefore, quite wide.
The lies that were spoken
The fundamental truth that Bofors was a choice both for quality and price by the UPA was forgotten.
The first lie was that only one man – the Prime Minister decided the transaction and that no discussion with the Air Force, Defence Ministry or the Defence Acquisition Council was held. It was alleged that there was no Price Negotiation Committee, no Contract Negotiation Committee and no approval of the Cabinet Committee on Security. Every fact was false. There were dozens of meetings of Contract Negotiation Committee and Price Negotiation Committee. The bulk of the negotiations were done by the experts of the Air Force and the transaction was cleared by both the Defence Acquisition Council and the Cabinet Committee on Security.
The judgement of the Supreme Court notes with satisfaction that procedural compliances have been done and the charges on the same are misconceived.
The second major lie was that as against 500 Million Euros negotiated by the UPA, the NDA paid 1600 Million Euros per aircraft. This accusation was ‘fiction writing’ and a poor one at that. The Government submitted a sealed cover before the Supreme Court giving details in a comparative chart of the UPA era pricing and the present pricing. It showed that for the first aircraft, Government negotiated a 9% cheaper deal for a bare aircraft and 20% cheaper for a weaponised aircraft compared to the UPA. Since the UPA had negotiated the supply of 18 aircrafts, this gain of 9% and 20% would have further expanded with the supply of aircrafts after the first one since a more favourable escalation clause negotiated by the NDA Government would have further widened the price gap. The Court looked into the prices and never commented adversely on the same.
The third major lie that the judgement of the Court expressed was that the Government of India favoured a particular business house. The Court noticed that the Government has nothing to do with the choice of the offset suppliers which was entirely done by Dassault. After the Court judgement, this debate should have come to an end. But neither lobbyists nor political opponents will ever give up their brief.
The misconceived demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)
The opponents of Rafale had a choice of their forum to put their facts, they chose Supreme Court as their forum.
The Court conducts a judicial review, it is a non-partisan, independent and a fair Constitutional authority. The Court’s verdict is final. It can’t be reviewed by anyone except by the Court itself. How can a Parliamentary Committee go into the correctness or otherwise to what the Court has said. Is a Committee of Politicians both legally and in terms of human resources capable of reviewing issues already decided by the Supreme Court? On areas such as procedure, offset suppliers and pricing, can a Parliamentary Committee take a different view of what the Court has said? Can the contract be breached, nation’s security be compromised and the pricing data be made available to Parliament / its Committee so that national interest is severely compromised with? This would be putting the price details of the weaponry in public domain. What was the experience of Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the only occasion when they investigated a defence transaction?
The B. Shankaranand Committee in 1987-88 went into the Bofors transaction. Since Parliamentarians are always split on party lines, it came out with a finding that no kickbacks were paid and the monies paid to the middlemen were ‘winding up’ charges. At that time only Win Chaddha appeared to be a middlemen. But then others including OttavioQuattrocchi, whose bank accounts got detected subsequently, were not entitled to any winding up charges. The reports / documents published by Chitra Subramanium and N. Ram in ‘The Hindu’ and all subsequent facts which came to light conclusively established each fact mentioned in the JPC to be factually false. It became a cover up exercise. After the Supreme Court has spoken the last word, it gets legitimacy. A political body can never come to a finding contrary to what the Court has said.
The CAG ambiguity
Defence transactions go to the CAG for an audit review. CAG recommendations go to Parliament and are referred to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) whose reports are then placed before the Parliament. This was factually and accurately stated by the Government before the Court. The audit review of Rafale is pending before the CAG. All facts are shared with it. When its report is out, it will go to the PAC. Notwithstanding this factually correct statement made, if an ambiguity has emerged in the Court Order, the correct course is for anyone to apply / mention before the Court and have it corrected. The past practice is that if in a factual narration anything needs to be corrected, any litigant can move to the Court for the same. This has been done. It must now be left to the wisdom of the Court to state at which stage the CAG review is pending. The CAG review is not relevant to the final findings on procedure, pricing and offset suppliers. But bad losers never accept the truth. Having failed in multiple lies they have now started an innuendo about the Judgement. Having failed in their initial falsehood, the Congress is now manufacturing further lies about the Judgement.
I am certain that the Congress Party will prefer disruptions over discussion on Rafale during the current session of Parliament. On facts it lied. The judgement of the Supreme Court conclusively establishes the Congress Party’s vulnerabilities in a discussion on defence transactions. It will be a great opportunity to remind the nation of the legacy of the Congress Party and its defence acquisitions – a great opportunity indeed for some of us to speak.
Writer is Union Minster of Finance, Government of India