Is the Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s allegation of corruption on Rafale aircraft deal between India and France based on any evidence or is he just dilly dallying to make himself relevant in the upcoming elections? It seems, to a logical mind, that there is a disconnect on the whole issue with regards to Rahul’s allegation on the Rafale deal. The major allegation by the Congress party and its president was that the government got into a deal with the French Government to purchase 36 numbers of Rafael jets for a higher price than the one negotiated by the previous government and in turn has incurred a loss of a huge amount (the amount alleged by Congress is varying every time) to the exchequer. The subsidiary allegation was about how the government intervened to make a contract between the French manufacturer Dassault Aviation and Reliance, possible. Rahul Gandhi quoting Former French President Hollande’s statement of September 20th, 2018 on the selection of Reliance to partner Dassault, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was directly involved in connecting Reliance to Dassault. A day after Hollande disowned his September 20th statement and said that he wasn’t aware of Government of India recommending Reliance to Dassault, Rahul and a section of the media went into silence. Hollande’s new statement disowning the old one and Rahul Gandhi’s prediction of Hollande’s September 20th statement 20 days ago in Twitter cements the fact that certain statements and stories are probably manufactured to provide more authenticity to Rahul Gandhi’s allegations.
The Congress triggered controversy mainly hovers around the cost of Rafale jets. But the big question is, what was the actual price of each Rafale aircraft during the UPA regime? The star of the allegations, Rahul Gandhi himself has quoted different prices in numerous occasions. In the past five months, the Congress president in various public meetings has quoted four different prices for Rafale aircraft during UPA government. While the Congress party is trying to shut in the NDA government over the Rafale aircraft deal by calling it the biggest scam in the last four years, Rahul Gandhi’s inconsistency over the prices has brought down people’s including many in opposition parties’ confidence and belief in the Congress party sponsored allegations.
Rahul compared the prices of the Rafale aircraft for the first time on April 29 at Jan Akrosh Rally in New Delhi. He made the comparison in an attempt to show how the price of each aircraft escalated under the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government. According to Rahul in that rally, each Rafale aircraft would have cost Rs 700 crore during UPA regime but under the NDA government the price of each aircraft became Rs 1,500 crore. However, on July 20th, in his speech during the no confidence motion against the Modi government in Lok Sabha, he attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Rafale deal and said that the cost of each Rafale plane was Rs 520 crore during UPA regime and after Modi’s visit to France it shot up to Rs 1,600 crore. Rahul Gandhi scaled down the price during the UPA regime from Rs 700 crore to Rs 520 crore and NDA price scaled up by Rs 100 crore. It did not end there, in less than three weeks from his speech in the Parliament; Rahul Gandhi in a public rally in Raipur reminded the people about his speech and quoted a different figure for each Rafale aircraft. This time his cost for each Rafale aircraft during the UPA rule increased by Rs 20 crore, from Rs 520 crore to Rs 540 crore. The most amazing flip-flop over Rafale prices came from the Congress president on August 11. Within just two minutes he quoted two different prices – Rs 520 crore and Rs 540 for each aircraft. But before one was to settle between Rs 520 crore and Rs 540 crore, Rahul Gandhi came up with another new figure for Rafale aircraft. This time it was Rs 526 crore for each aircraft. 2 days later in Bidar and Hyderabad rallies he quoted Rs.526 crore. Funny enough, five months ago in Bidar he quoted Rs.700 crore for the aircraft. The inconsistencies with which Gandhi has approached the issue have gradually scaled down the interest in people who had taken up the Rafale issue with interest in the beginning stages. Rahul Gandhi himself is not sure of the prices and with all his ignorance he seems to have the audacity to repeat the allegations and call the Prime Minister a thief.
As I have mentioned above that the other major matter of concern Congress raised was the contract between Dassault Aviation and Reliance Aerospace which they allege, was made possible by the intervention of the Prime Minister. Many social media memes produced by the Congress IT cell seems to be calling Reliance Aerospace a paper company. Dassault themselves, the French Government and the former French President Hollande (on his September 22nd statement) has made it clear that it was Dassault who have chosen their partners to make aircraft components and Reliance was just one of those 72 companies with whom the agreement was made. Further it was said that the Indian government had no hand in the deal between Dassault and its partners. If the allegation of the Congress that terms Reliance Aerospace as a paper company holds true then the UPA government will directly be implicated for a particular reason. Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Co. Ltd that had bagged Rs 2600 crore defense order in 2010 from the Government of India was bought by Reliance to facilitate their defence production. Hence calling Reliance Aerospace a paper company will directly implicate the UPA regime.
The controversy created by Rahul Gandhi and co on the Rafale aircraft deal seems to be with an aim to upset BJP in the imminent state elections and further in 2019. However, looking at theambiguous way with which Rahul Gandhi has been carrying the issue for the last few months, one feels that either he hasn’t done his homework properly or he is just blowing up an empty balloon to stay relevant in the coming elections.