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Rafale Deal: Questionable Timing of Raising Red Flag Featured

 By Mukesh Kaushik 

The Dharma of Opposition is to corner the government of the day on issues of core national interests, especially on the matters where billions of Rupees of the hard earned money of tax payers was on stake. This is the only yardstick on which Congress’s recent high decibel attack on the Narendra Modi government on the issue of purchase of 36 Rafale fighter aircraft on the “exuberant cost” with not so transparent dealings can be justified. Otherwise, the timing, the tone and tenor, and the issues involved in recent spar between the Congress and the ruling BJP, all indicate that the Opposition kept sleeping at times when it was to play effective role of an alert watchdog.

The ruling BJP as well as the NDA government and its Defence Ministry which was being headed by Manohar Parrikar during the entire period of over 18 month-long negotiation for fixing the price of Rafale deal gave several golden opportunities to the Opposition to raise the red flags over the manner things were being finalised.


     The most crucial chance came in April, 2016, when the over enthusiastic BJP, in its efforts to garner additional brownie points claimed that the government has saved $3.2 billion with the deal and  posted slides on its official Facebook and Twitter pages to highlight the achievement of  the government’s two years in office.

It left Mr Parrikar red faced, who, on the very next day gave credit to media for the faux pas committed by his Party’s campaigned wing.

“It only indicates that you write stories [media] which are very convincing which probably convinced them [BJP team] also that it has been signed,” Mr. Parrikar said in his attempt to trash the claim made by his own party.


And the Congress was found napping. This was the time when the Opposition led by Congress may have posed serious questions relating to secrecy of the high profile negotiations. The party could have asked how the exact details of the price tag of fighter deal travelled to 11 Ashok Road in midst of “hard bargaining” process.

Much before the ruling party committed this mistake, the Congress is guilty of keeping mum and not training its guns when the government took more than enough time for finalising the Rafale deal. The process took almost 18 month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his decision to acquire 36 fighters during his France visit in April, 2015.

The Opposition, including the Congress was so much smarting under the crushing defeat that it could not posed difficult questions before the Government. It failed to question the government that on what at level and on what basis the government concluded that 36 Rafale would be enough to meet the urgent need of the IAF.

Had the Congress raised the issue during the time of negotiations, it certainly would have given the upper hand to the party and an important handle to Mr Parrikar to struck a hard bargain with the French citing political difficulties.


The defence ministers of sides inked the deal in September, 2016 with vivid details put out before the media. The BJP also proved right when the cost of Rafale deal was announced. The tweet put out by the party was bang on target. And the Congress, as usual, was way off mark as it again decided to reserve its right to target to the government at the time of its choosing. At the time of signing of contract it was told that the 'vanila price' (just the aircraft alone) will cost about 91 million Euros each for a single seater and about 94 million Euros for a two seater trainer aircraft.

The Euro 7.87-billion (Rs 59,000 crore approx) deal for Rafale fighter jets, came with

a 50 per cent offset clause, which means that Indian businesses, will gain work to the tune of over three billion Euros.

Here comes the second issue being flagged by the Congress. The party, in not so oblique terms, is hinting that a business house was being benefitted in the name of self-“reliance”.

The attacked seemed to be half baked as is not grounded on solid arguments. Dassault Aviation, the maker of the Rafale aircraft and Anil Ambani-promoted Reliance Aerospace Ltd set up a joint venture as part of the offset obligation for the Rafale deal.

The similar MoUs were being finalised for the upcoming single engine fighter aircraft project between big business houses of India and the perspective foreign vendors and the government has nothing to do in it.

When asked about these MoUs, a top IAF official said these marriages were being solemnised without “our consent”. “This kind of live in relationships” he went on to suggest.

Keeping its silence on these behind the scene marriages and targeting only one couple, cannot be called a good politics for the Congress.

Also, the language of its attack over the Rafale deal sounds more like CAG pointing fingers on “irregularities” and “over pricing” with process not being transparent enough. These are terminologies best left for the auditors and the authors of the CAG.

After signing of the deal in September, 2016 the Congress waited for 14 months to pass and raise the issue on the eve of assembly poll in Gujrat.

The Congress, as an alert watchdog and a strong opposition was expected to do its homework well and dig out something which could cast a dark shadow of suspicion on deal in a credible manner. And the party should have provided these leads to certain non-mainstream media houses to spread the word.


Otherwise, coming out with a frozen issue from refrigerator at the time some assembly elections would not work. Even worse of the house keepers know that almost half of the items kept in refrigerator for future consumptions go to waste bin.