Rafale deal: Chidambaram insists on probe

We can give a dozen reasons why the Rafale deal must be investigated, he says

September 30, 2018 10:42 pm | Updated 10:42 pm IST - New Delhi

Responding to Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s contention that there are no grounds to order a probe into the Rafale deal, former Finance Minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram has listed three reasons why a probe is needed, including on why the BJP government scrapped an earlier agreement to buy 126 aircraft.

The Congress has been demanding that a joint parliamentary committee be instituted to probe the deal, which the Opposition parties allege had been signed without following the established protocol.

“Defence Minister asks ‘Why should I order an inquiry into the Rafale purchase?’ Here are the three TOP reasons: Why did the government scrap the earlier agreement on 126 aircraft that had been approved by every authority including the Indian Air Force,” Mr. Chidambaram said in a series of tweets on Sunday.

Offset queries

He questioned the government for not suggesting the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited as the offset partner. Ms. Sitharaman claimed at a press conference in Chennai on Saturday that the talks between Rafale producers Dassault Aviation and HAL failed.

“If the price negotiated by the NDA government was indeed cheaper by 9 per cent, why did the government decide to buy only 36 aircraft and not all the 126 agreed upon earlier,” Mr. Chidambaram reiterated the question raised by former Defence Minister A.K. Antony at a press conference held by the Congress earlier.

The BJP government has been claiming that the Congress is raising questions on the Rafale deal because of its discomfort at seeing the Defence Ministry run without brokers and dalal s (middlemen). Ms. Sitharaman had instead blamed the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government for failing to conclude the Rafale agreement and causing a reduction in Indian Air Force (IAF) squadrons from 42 to 33. “If the Defence Minister wants a 4th or 5th or 6th reason, we are ready with a dozen reasons,” Mr. Chidambaram added.

She said the NDA government has been taking care of HAL far better than their predecessors. “They did not attend to HAL. Every year, I have given ₹20,000 crore worth of projects to HAL. But the previous UPA government gave just ₹10,000 crore projects,” she said.

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