Bengaluru: Reiterating the Congress demand, senior party leader P Chidambaram on Friday, December 21, said the next Parliament would constitute a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to inquire into the controversial Rafale deal the NDA government had signed with the French aerospace major Dassault Aviation in 2016.
“If the present Parliament does not constitute a JPC, the next Parliament will constitute it to probe the Rafale deal,” said former Union Finance Minister at the party’s state unit office here.
Observing that the main opposition party was not satisfied with the answers of the government on the deal, Chidambaram said Rafale would be an important issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as it was live in the recent assembly elections in Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.
“A defence deal worth Rs 60,000 crore that will leave the country with only 36 fighters as against 126 aircraft contracted for under the UPA government cannot go unchallenged or unexamined,” asserted Chidambaram.
Accusing the NDA government of misleading even the Supreme Court, the former minister said the party was asking the people to support its demand for a JPC probe into the deal.
“The apex court rested its judgement on the basis that it did not have the jurisdiction to go into various aspects of a defence procurement after accepting the governmentaï¿½s claim and declining to examine their correctness. In the process, the top court committed a grave error by observing that the Comptroller and Audit General of India (CAG) had examined the deal when it did not,” he said.
Chidambaram’s demand for JPC comes soon after party president Rahul Gandhi and its senior leader Mallikarjun Kharge made the same demand in the current winter session of Parliament in New Delhi since December 11.
The Supreme Court on December 14 dismissed four petitions seeking a probe into the purchase of 36 Rafale fighters in a fly-away condition from Dassault, saying it could “not scrutinise each aspect of the acquisition”.
The Congress leader also questioned the government’s intent to scrap the earlier negotiations for the fighter held by the previous UPA government to enter into a new agreement with Dassault.
The multi-million dollar deal the UPA government did not finalise had envisaged the city-based Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) manufacturing 108 of the 126 Rafale aircraft under licensed production, with 18 delivered in a fly-away condition to the Indian Air Force (IAF) by Dassault by 2022.
Scrapping the previous deal at the price negotiations stage, the BJP-led government signed another deal in 2015 with the French government to buy 36 Rafale fighters in flying condition for an estimated $54 billion.
“Though 95 per cent of the discussions concluded after Dassault Chief Executive Eric Trappier visited HAL in Bengaluru in 2012, the NDA government had scrapped them (discussions) in April 2015 and entered into a new agreement for buying only 36 Rafale jets,” recalled Chidambaram.
The Congress leader also recalled then Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar saying on April 8, 2015 that the Rafale deal was not on the agenda during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris for discussion with then French President Francois Hollande.
“On April 10, 2015 the NDA government entered into a new agreement to buy 36 Rafale aircraft instead of 126 by cancelling the earlier agreement. Why? The Prime Minister and the Union Finance Minister (Arun Jaitley) are hiding the fact,” added Chidambaram.