NEW DELHI: The Congress today said there was no clause in a 2008 pact between India and France that prevents the government from divulging price details of the Rafale deal.
Former defence minister and senior Congress leader A K Antony said the government’s claim that a secrecy clause in the pact was forcing it to not reveal price details of the deal was “totally wrong”.
“The scope of the agreement only extends to tactical and technical details of weaponry relating to the capability of the platform in question and its performance and tactics in combat and does not include commercial details and costs. It is clear that the Prime Minister and Defence Minister misled the nation,” Antony said.
He also said the government cannot hide the price details of the Rafale jets as the deal has to be scrutinised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) as well as Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
Addressing a press conference, his colleague Anand Sharma added that the government owes Parliament an explanation on why Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman “misled” the nation on the price issue.
“The French government had no objection in revealing the price of the Rafale aircraft. This was conveyed by the French president to Rahul Gandhi,” he said.
Another Congress leader, Randeep Singh Surjewala, echoed him said the prime minister and the defence minister misled Parliament on the issue. This, he said, is clearly a matter of breach of privilege.
Claiming that the per aircraft price of Rafale as per international bid in 2012 during UPA government came to Rs 18,940 crore for 36 aircraft, the Congress leaders said the Modi government purchased the same number of aircraft for Rs 60,145 crore and asked BJP to explain the “extra amount” of Rs 41,000 crore paid from public money.
“This price is apparent from the ‘Annual Report, 2016’ of Dassault Aviation,” they said. Antony and Sharma referred to two replies given by the Defence Ministry in 2016 and 2018 in Parliament revealing the price to be approximately Rs 670 crore per aircraft.
The accused the Modi government of “taking refuge” behind the French government’s statement, and pointed out that the secrecy was only on specifications and weaponry and not on the price.
The two leaders also referred to answers given by the UPA government between 2010 and 2013 regarding the price of acquiring INS Vikramaditya, upgrade of Mirage aircraft, procurement of Sukhoi aircraft and development of Kaveri engine.