Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said that the Rafale deal negotiated by the government is 9 per cent cheaper than what the Congress had negotiated. In 2015, the government had entered into a deal with France for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets. However, Congress President Rahul Gandhi has time and again accused the government of buying the planes at a higher price than what the UPA-II had negotiated.
In an exclusive interview to news agency ANI, Jaitley today said that Congress had recently made false allegations against the Modi government. "Mr Rahul Gandhi himself has given seven different prices in different speeches with regard to the Rafale, that is the 2007 offer," he said.
"What was negotiated from 2015 to 2016 and finally executed in 2016, with the escalations and the currency variations, the basic aircraft price turns out to be 9 per cent cheaper. Is the Congress party aware of this?" the Finance Minister further asked.
Jaitley also said that the Congress had negotiated for unloaded and non-weaponised aircrafts that were of no use. He said: "Are they (Congress) 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."
Jaitley hinted that the Congress was deliberately comparing prices of a basic aircraft with the fully-loaded ones. "Can you compare a basic aircraft's pricing with a loaded aircraft? Can you compare a simple aircraft with a weaponised aircraft?" he further asked.
Justifying the deal between the Indian and French governments, Jaitley said that any responsible politician will know that government to government transactions are always clean. "Governments don't pay kickbacks. It's a transaction between the Government of India and the Government of France, publically made and publically declared terms that we will give you an offer better than 2007 and then enter into," the Finance Minister said.
Jaitley also refuted the allegations that the government had tweaked the contract to favour Anil Ambani's defence firm Reliance Defence. He said: "This is a government to government arrangement. Offset has nothing to do with this contract. There are 100s of offsets in India. The Government will purchase 36 fully-loaded aircraft coming all the way from France, manufactured in France, no private party involved. The Government of India's role ends."
He further said that under a policy devised by the UPA, every defence supplier (original equipment manufacturer or OEM) has to undertake some offsets. "About 30 per cent of the total contract value, the supplier has to in future start making purchases from India. Who will he make purchases from? He selects his own partners. Those purchases have nothing to do with Rafale or these aircraft. He could be buying guns, pistols, binoculars or some spare parts. For this purpose, not only Rafale but every defence manufacturer has to enter into offset contracts," Jaitley explained.
In November 2017, Rahul Gandhi had asked PM Modi to explain his "Reliance on someone with nil experience in aerospace for the Rafale deal?" Through a series of sarcastic tweets, Rahul had accused that "Self 'Reliance' is obviously a critical aspect of Make in India".