In the recent past, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has left no stone unturned in making allegations of unfairness in the Rafale deal. He has been making a particular set of allegations again and again even after he has been exposed time and again. His bundle of lies has been a self-defeating enterprise. However, it seems that the Congress president believes that relentless and malicious political propaganda would somehow help him in manipulating the public opinion.
One of these oft repeated lies has been that the price per Rafale jet as finalised under the Modi government is higher than that which had been finalised during the tenure of the UPA government. However, this is a white lie. The fact remains that the Rafale deal was not finalised during the UPA tenure. The then defence minister, A.K. Antony had himself called it off. Coming to the question of price, the deal that remained at the stage of discussions during the UPA era was for just 18 Rafale jets in fly away condition, while the present deal is for 36 jets in fly away condition. Therefore, the comparisons being made are grossly unfair. No deal had been finalised during the UPA era and it is absurd to comment upon a finalised deal with reference to a deal that was being discussed but never saw light of the day. However, even if the two deals were to be compared, the present deal which has been finalised by the Modi government comes about to be 9 per cent cheaper given several factors at play such as escalations and currency variations.
Another groundless lie being propagated is that the correct procedure had not been adhered to while finalising the Rafale deal. This allegation again is a mere figment of imagination. Rahul Gandhi went on to the extent of alleging that prime minister Modi “broke every single procedure and law to favour” Anil Ambani. However, in reality the proper procedure had been strictly adhered to. Approval from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had been taken at each and every stage in the Rafale deal. The CCS was always kept in the loop and its approval taken wherever necessary.
The crux of the allegations against the Rafale deal has invariably revolved around the claim that Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence had been favoured over other worthy contenders. Along with this, it was propagated that the Reliance Defence is a new company with little or no experience in defence manufacturing. Rahul Gandhi reportedly said, “HAL was given the Rafale contract to generate jobs. HAL had 70 years of experience, Anil Ambani had 10 days.” This again is a lie that is being shamelessly propagated by the president of the grand old party. The Reliance Defence is not an amateur as was being propagated. It is actually a company established in 1997 by the name of Pipavav Shipment. It was taken over by the Reliance group in 2015 and its name changed to Reliance Defence. Later, it was renamed as Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited. Moreover, all the commotion being created around Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence makes it seem as if Reliance is the only offset partner. However, that is not the case, Reliance Defence is only one of the several players who were selected as offset partners by Dassault Aviation. Reliance Defence is just one of the 30 offset partners which are a part of this deal.
Another imaginary claim that came up in the malicious propaganda against the Rafale deal is that the Modi government went out of its way and told the Dassault and the French government to take Reliance as the offset partner. This outright lie was propagated with the help of a French news portal called Mediapart, which claimed that the former French president Hollande had stated that the Indian government had proposed Reliance’s name and Dassault had no role to play in choosing the company given to it. Rahul Gandhi and his sycophants went on to claim that Hollande’s statement suggested foul play in the entire deal and the situation required prime minister Modi’s intervention. However, this lie like all other lies about the Rafale deal was exposed pretty soon. The former French president later issued a clear denial over foul play in Rafale deal and whatever he was purportedly said to have been stating. He made it clear in unambiguous terms that he was ‘unaware’ on India putting pressure for taking Reliance on board for the deal. It became clear that this was just another fake allegation as far as the Rafale deal was concerned. Later on, Mediapart did another hitjob in which it claimed that it had in its possession from Dassault Aviation, a document which it was mentioned that taking Relaince Defence as an offset partner was compulsory. Later, even this myth was busted and it was pointed out by other French media outlets and experts that the document was meant to convince the French labour unions that due to the ‘Make in India’ clause in the Rafale deal, it was compulsory to choose any ‘offset partner’. Moreover, the allegations of favouritism on part of the government also stand refuted because the Dassault Aviation has itself made it clear that it freely chose to make a partnership with Reliance Defence.
Another ridiculous allegation propagated by Rahul Gandhi has been that Reliance Defence received a kickback to the tune of Rs. 284 crores from Dassault Aviation. This is based entirely on conjectures and surmises with the sole motive of misleading the nation for political benefits. It is common knowledge that some amount of the deal is paid in advance before the concerned goods or services are delivered. As per guidelines for defence deals, 15 per cent of the contract has to be paid within 30 days of signing of a contract and a bank guarantee for the equivalent sum also given upon submission of claim. In fact, in a number of deals even in the UPA era, a part of the deal amount was paid well in advance before supply of the concerned product. That does not amount to a kickback and the same logic must be applied to the present Rafale deal as well.
It seems that the Congress led by Rahul Gandhi in particular is going through a period of extreme frustration and desperation. Modi government appears to be giving them no ground for criticism. Had this not been the case, there would have been no reason why Rahul Gandhi would have kept harping about foul play in the Rafale deal, even after having been exposed badly on all counts.