Question on Rafale deal should be answered, says Cong's Manpreet Badal

The BJP-led NDA government at the Centre should clarify the "doubts and suspicions" over the India's deal with French aviation company Dassault for the supply of 36 fighter aircraft, Punjab minister and Congress leader Manpreet Singh Badal said today.

"The people of the country want answers from the government and the BJP on the issues related to the Rafale deal. Compared to the deal negotiated by the UPA, the present deal causes a loss of Rs 41,000 crore of the people's money," the Punjab finance minister alleged while speaking to reporters here.

Badal claimed the circumstances in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi finalised the deal during his France visit raised questions.

"Just two days before the PM's visit to France, (then) Foreign secretary said that the aircraft deal will not be discussed or finalised. But Modiji goes to France and without consulting anyone placed the order for 36 aircraft," he said.

The Congress leader claimed that two months before the deal was finalised by the prime minister, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had said the negotiations between Dassault Aviation and the HAL were going on satisfactorily.

Badal also raised question over the offset contract and life cycle maintenance contract related to the Rafale deal which, he claimed "was taken away from a public sector undertaking and given to Reliance Defence Limited".

The Anil Ambani-led group has already rubbished the allegations that Congress leaders have been levelling against it.

Our reservations are that the procedure for defence purchases was not followed, the Punjab minister said.

"The government defended claiming there was an urgent need for the aircraft. However, according to the schedule of delivery, the first aircraft will be delivered in 2019 and (the entire delivery of planes) completed by 2022. So, there was no emergency," Badal claimed adding the deal negotiated by UPA included immediate delivery of 18 aircraft.

Badal said while the defence minister, replying to a question in Parliament, said the price per aircraft cannot be disclosed as it pertained to national security but Dassault Aviation and Reliance Defence reflected the price in their annual balance sheet reports.

He asked why the government did not seek a fresh bid from Dassault after Eurofighter "offered to slash its price" for the Typhoon aircraft.

The Congress has been on the offensive on the Rafale issue but the government and the BJP have dismissed by the charges levelled by the opposition party.

Anil Ambani's Reliance group has also trashed the allegations levelled against it.

The group, which has slapped "Cease and Desist" notices on many Congress leaders asking them not to make 'false and defamatory' statements on the deal, had also asserted that Dassault, the French firm that is to supply 36 Rafale jets, choose Reliance Defence Ltd to meet its 'offset' or export obligation in the contract and that the Defence Ministry has no role in the selection of Indian partners by foreign vendors.

The company has also rejected allegations that Reliance Defence was incorporated days before announcement of the Rafale deal, saying three companies were incorporated in December 2014 and Reliance Group's entry into defence sector was announced at Aero India in February 2015.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)