The elections of 2014 were fought by BJP under the pretense of turning the wrongs of UPA government into the right and delivering on the promises made to the voters. The journey of BJP government from 2014 onwards has suggested otherwise where let alone correcting the supposed woes of UPA rule, even the unfinished deals have been turned into unmitigated disasters. One such glaring example is that of Rafale Deal initiated by the UPA government and later looked over by the Modi-led NDA government.
According to the deal initiated in 2012, the French Company Dassault Aviation was supposed to supply the Indian Air force 126 Aircrafts with an optional 63 Aircrafts additionally. It was also decided that the first 18 Aircrafts would be manufactured by Dassault while the remaining ones would be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) after gaining the required technology from the foreign agency.
The deal took an unprecedented turn in January 2014 when suddenly the cost of the entire deal was raised to $30 billion with Aircrafts costing $120 million each. The interesting relationship of Modi government with Ambani family and Reliance group is not news to anybody but the suspicion arose much further at the presence of Anil Ambani in France at the exact same time when PM Modi announced the deal to acquire 36 fully built aircrafts from the agency at an increased rate. Despite numerous reminders and demands from leaders like Manish Tewari and Randeep Surjewala, there has been no clarification from the government as to why the per-aircraft cost was increased from ₹526.1 crores to ₹1,570 crores. Government spokespersons have reiterated the claim that the deal of 36 Aircrafts finalized between Indian PM Modi and French President Hollande is better and more beneficial than the deal initiated by the UPA government.
As the BJP spokespersons were denying the claim of involving Reliance in the deal and claimed that it was pure coincidence that Anil Ambani was present in France as a member of Indo-French CEO Forum, French President Hollande made an uncomfortable comment that Indian government had nominated Reliance Group as a partner in Rafale Deal to the French Government. This further debunked the narrative spread by the government in the media that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense Ltd. was not deliberately involved in the Rafale Deal.
It became a lot more complicated when French Government contradicted French President to assert that French Companies can independently choose their partners and Reliance Defense Ltd. was the choice of Dassault Aviation only.
Though the Supreme Court of India gave a clean chit to the Union government on the Rafale Deal but numerous journalists and activists have demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee to seek further probe in the deal. The public interest litigations have been filed so that the correct details of the deal are brought out in the public domain after the Supreme Court verdict.
In the light of the statements given by French President Hollande, it becomes clear that Indian government did project Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defense Ltd. as a partner from the Indian side of the deal and his presence in France at the time of the deal is too convenient to be a coincidence. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has made a public challenge to PM Modi to publicly face him in a debate for just twenty minutes on the issue of Rafale Deal but there has been no response from the PM Office as of yet.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has dismissed the allegations as false and has wholeheartedly welcomed the SC verdict. Indian voters who were expecting a revolutionary shift away from crony-capitalism towards development schemes for the poor by the BJP government are left bewildered and disappointed at this blatant display of corporatism by the current government. A sweeping wave of apprehension towards the government has engulfed the masses over this issue and if 2018 State Elections are any indication, this wave has proved to be a countercurrent to the ‘Modi wave’ generated way back in 2014. It remains left to be seen whether this wave makes its way to the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections or the masses would need another reality check to come out of their stupor.