After initial hesitation, the Modi government purportedly submitted to the order of the Supreme Court which asked about the pricing of 36 Rafale jets. The Supreme Court on October 31 had asked the government to share details of pricing and the process to finalise the deal with Dassault Aviation Company of France. Many petitions including the one by the former union minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha are before the court now. The Congress alleged that bribes of thousands of crores exchanged hands in the deal. In other words it has become the Bofors of the Modi government. The government was arguing that it was a deal between the Indian government and its French counterpart and therefore no details can be divulged. However, the Supreme Court ignored the argument while issuing the order.
The Congress and other opposition parties have leveled serious charges against the government. The Congress president Rahul Gandhi did not mince words when he alleged that Prime Minister Naredra Modi extended huge benefits to Ambani of Reliance Industry. The bone of contention is that the deal was negotiated by the UPA government but it was not concluded during its regime and the present authorities made controversial changes in the contract. At that time the Indian partner to Dassault was the public sector unit Hindutan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), but when the negotiation was taken forward by the present government, this partner was changed and Ambani’s Reliance Defence came into the picture. The Congress-led opposition said that this company was established just for the sake of the deal and had no experience whatsoever in the aviation industries. The Prime Minister was instrumental for this change. This is a serious charge and was okayed by none other than the then French President Francios Hollande who said the offset partner was suggested by the Indian government and his country had no choice but to accept it. This should be the final words which came direct from the horse mouth.
However the matter was complicated when Dassault’s chief executive officer Trappier said it was the choice of the company which selected the Reliance Defence. The Congress said this admission by the company was under pressure. Rahul Gandhi on November 13 tweeted, “Modi has admitted to committing theft in the Supreme Court. In the affidavit he has admitted to making changes in the contract without asking the Air Force and putting Rs 30000 crore in Ambani’s pocket.” During the UPA government the negotiation was on for 126 jets but now the number has been cut to 36. The Congress has asked the Prime Minsiter as to why the number of jets was cut and the procedure was short-circuited? Was it done to extend profits to ‘his corporate friend’ Ambani?
In the Supreme Court on November 14, the government said revealing details of pricing of Rafale fighters was against India’s strategic and commercial interests and it will deter sale of high-grade weapons to India. The court said the disclosure of the price would be considered only when the court decides to make others aspects of the deal public. Prashant Bhushan and Arun Shorie told the bench headed by the Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi that the French government did not give sovereign guarantee to the deal. They also said that the UPA government’s terms were better than the present ones. Kapil Sibal said it was a government to government deal, as it was argued by Attorney General K K Venugopal. Now the apex court verdict will only clear the mist that shrouded the deal.