Sitharaman lied on Rafale deal, PM compromised national interest: Congress

The Congress on Friday accused Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of "lying" on Reliance Defence Limited which, it claimed, didn't have experience in manufacturing fighter jets, having secured an offset contract from Dassault Aviation for Rs 30,000 crore and a consequent Lifecycle Cost Contract of Rs 1 lakh crore in the Rafale deal.

Stressing that national interests were being compromised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Defence Minister, the Congress demanded that Modi break his silence and tell the nation if he represented the interests of private companies and industrial houses.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "Dear trolls, I apologise for my earlier tweet in which I stated Mr 56's friend's JV, received 4 billion US$'s of "off set" contracts. I forgot to add the 16 Billion US$ RAFALE "lifecycle" contract. 20 BILLION US$, is the actual benefit. So Sorry!!" #130000CroreRafaleScam

"Defence Offset Contract went to Reliance Defence Ltd, which had zero experience of manufacturing fighter aircraft. Reliance Defence Limited had been constituted 12 days before (March 28, 2015) the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by PM Modi in France on April 10, 2015," alleged Congress Spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, citing a Ministry of Corporate Affairs MCA services master data.

The party also alleged that Reliance Aerostructure Limited was given the licence to manufacture fighter aircraft by the Defence Ministry though it did not own any land or building on the date of the licensing, which is February 22, 2016.

"What is even more surprising is the fact that even Reliance Aerostructure Limited was incorporated on April 24, 2015, which is 14 days after the announcement of purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by the Prime Minister," he claimed.

"Culture of crony capitalism is in the DNA of Modi government. It is truer than ever in case of Rs 60,145 crore Rafale Deal," Surjewala alleged.

Citing a press release by Reliance Defence Limited and Reliance Infrastructure Investors Presentation, Surjewala said that Reliance Defence Limited claimed "to have secured the offset contract from Dassault Aviation for Rs 30,000 crore and a consequent 'Lifecycle Cost Contract' of Rs 1 lakh crore over 50 years."

The leader also cited Dassault Aviation's Annual Report of 2016-17 which claimed that 'offset contract' was being executed by Reliance.

"On the contrary, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has claimed in a PIB press release dated February 7, 2018, that the 'offset contract has not been awarded by Dassault Aviation'," Surjewala said.

The PIB release said: "No Indian offset partner for the 2016 deal for 36 Rafale Aircraft has been so far selected by the vendor (DA)...."

Surjewala asked: "Who is lying? The Defence Minister or Reliance/Dassault Aviation?"

He said: "Can Reliance and Dassault Aviation sign an 'offset contract' of Rs 30,000 crore without the approval of the Defence Minister?"

Surjewala said that "absence of approval for defence offset contract to Reliance Defence Ltd from the Defence Minister and Acquisition Manager of Defence Ministry and Defence Acquisition Council is in complete violation of contract guidelines."

He said that public sector undertaking, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), had signed a Rs 36,000 crore offset contract in shape of a 'Workshare Agreement' dated March 13, 2014.

"Once Modi unilaterally announced an 'off-the-shelf' purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft in April 2015, HAL was suddenly denied the biggest-ever Defence Offset Contract," Surjewala added.

He also said that the art of deceiving India is the Modi government's mantra in this "mother of all defence deals."

He said that "conspiracy, deception and loss to public exchequer have marred the unilateral purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft by the government."

--IANS

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