Council of Ministers briefed on Rafale deal


New Delhi, Sep 5 : Facing relentless allegations of corruption in the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Modi government is bracing to counter the Opposition onslaught more effectively. On Wednesday, the Union Council of Ministers was briefed about the deal by the National Security Advisor (NSA) besides a top defence official.

A presentation was made to the Council of Ministers giving details of the deal signed by the Modi government with French company Dassault Aviation in April 2016 to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition. It explaining how the deal was better than the one finalised by the UPA government in 2007, sources said.

The Council of Ministers was told during the two-and-a-half-hour meeting that the allegations levelled by the Opposition about favouring a private entity in giving the offset contract at the cost of state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) were “baseless”.

The presentation made by NSA Ajit Doval and Secretary, Defence Production, Ajay Kumar, focused on how the deal signed by the Modi government was “at least 20 per cent” cheaper than the one signed by UPA as it entailed transfer of technology and weaponry.

“The 36 fighter jets will be delivered in a fly-away condition. Not a single equipment is being manufactured in India. So how come this private company has been favoured,” Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters in response to a question at the formal Cabinet briefing, though he refused to divulge the details of what transpired in the Council of Ministers’ meeting.

“I am not supposed to disclose the details of the Council of Ministers meet here,a Jaitley, who has resumed office last month after a kidney transplant, said.

The purpose of the briefing is understood to equip the Ministers with relevant information about the deal to enable them to counter the opposition’s allegations in a more informed and focused way.

Jaitley rejects Rahul’s allegations on Rafale deal

 Hitting back at Congress President Rahul Gandhi over his allegations concerning the Rafale deal, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday rejected the charge that the Narendra Modi government had used its influence to benefit a private player.

Calling Gandhi “an ill-informed gentleman”, he said it was unfortunate that the entire party was following him in ignorance.

Jaitley, who was responding to questions after a meeting of the Union Cabinet, said that the deal done by the Narendra Modi government with France was nine per cent cheaper than that negotiated by the UPA in terms of the basic cost of the fighter jet and 20 per cent cheaper for its weaponised version.

Apparently rebutting Gandhi’s charge that the Prime Minister had benefited “a friend” in the deal to purchase fighter jets, Jaitley said the government has no role to play in the choice by the private manufacturer of an offsets partner.

“There is no scope of role of any private party in the entire transaction. All the 36 aircraft will reach India in flying condition and nothing will be added here. There is no scope for a private party but you keep alleging.”

Attacking Gandhi, who has spearheaded the Congress attack on the Rafale deal, Jaitley said he was making baseless allegations.

“The Congress has proved that in dynastic politics, ignorance is contagious. If a person is ill-informed and does not have sufficient information, then the entire party lacks information. Let the problem remain within the Congress,” he said.

“To satisfy the ego of an ill-informed gentleman, there are no options,” he added.

He accused the Congress of doing little to boost indigenous production of advanced weaponary and said that the NDA government had helped the process by liberalising FDI norms in defence first to 26 per cent and then raising it to 49 per cent.

Jaitley said there can be more than 49 per cent FDI in special cases.

He said the Congress was willing to purchase fighter jets from foreign private players but was not willing to encourage Indian private players in defence manufacturing.

“This is backward thinking and we disagree with them on this,” he said.