Rafale jet deal price 20% less than UPA govt's, says FM Arun Jaitley

FILE PHOTO: Union Minister Arun Jaitley | Photo: Reuters
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the Narendra Modi government had maintained complete transparency in the Rafale fighter jet deal, and its negotiations with the French government had helped bring down the cost of the jets.

The FM said the price negotiated by the Modi government for the basic aircraft was 9 per cent cheaper than the UPA's, and 20 per cent less for the weaponised loaded aircraft. Jaitley said the Congress and its President Rahul Gandhi were making truth a victim and compromising national security by raising questions on the deal.

Jaitley said former Defence Minister A K Antony, under whose tenure the deal was first negotiated, should tell his party "that the L1 offer of 2007 had a basic 2007 price plus escalation plus currency variation. In 2015 or 16, this would have been 9 per cent costlier than what the basic aircraft price of 2016 negotiated was. My second question is, are they aware of this fact, or have their ministers who dealt with it and know the file, told them that if it was a fully weaponised loaded aircraft? Loaded to unloaded, you compare the price again. The 2016 price is 20 per cent cheaper than the 2007 offer. So we got it cheaper." The Finance Minister, who last week rejoined work after his kidney transplant, said doctors have permitted him to resume work with a certain amount of discipline. “I am certainly feeling far more energetic, and I am sure I will be able to discharge my responsibilities effectively,” Jaitley said in an interview to news agency ANI. Jaitley said the objective of the Congress party’s attack on the Modi government was try discredit what has been “one of the cleanest governments in recent history”. He said in the absence of a single charge of corruption, “not a shred of it”, the Congress has manufactured a charge.

In reply to Jaitley, Congress president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Mr. Jaitley, thanks for bringing the nation’s attention back to the great Rafale robbery. How about a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to sort it out? Problem is your supreme leader is protecting his friend so this may be inconvenient. Do check and revert in 24-hours. We are waiting!”

Over the past few days, Congress leaders have held press conferences across the country to highlight the Rafale “scam”. The Indian Youth Congress announced a march on Thursday afternoon from the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar Road to the Prime Minister’s official residence at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg against the Rafale “scam”. Senior Congress leaders will take part.

In the interview, the Finance Minister said the need for a multirole combat aircraft was felt in 2001, especially in the light of the experience of the Kargil battle. He said the “indecisive” UPA government put the deal of buying Rafale in cold storage in 2012. India’s security was compromised by this delay but why did the delay happen, Jaitley asked. 

On the pricing of each Rafale aircraft, Jaitley said the Congress president has given seven different prices in different speeches.

“And the simple case is that they have made it as if it is a kindergarten or primary school debate,” Jaitley said.

Jaitley questioned Gandhi’s understanding of the issue. He said a basic aircraft’s pricing with a loaded weaponised aircraft cannot be compared. He said the delay by the UPA government led to cost escalations, and other variables like India specific add-ons and foreign exchange fluctuations.

Jaitley said the 2015 deal between Prime Minister Modi and the French President that 36 fully loaded aircraft will be given to India, with the escalations and the currency variations, the basic aircraft price turns out to be 9 per cent cheaper.

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