IF the Modi government thought that it got a ‘clean chit’ from the Supreme Court on the Rafale deal and that it would be treated as the last word on the subject, it could not have been more mistaken. Rafale is back with a vengeance. Modi had to devote considerable time defending the deal in his marathon post-budget parliament speech and since then we have had explosive revelations concerning objections raised from within the Defence Ministry to the process of negotiation and terms of the deal. It is also clear that the government has so far been busy misleading the Supreme Court and the public about the terms and implications of the deal.
A few facts have now become crystal clear. The deal that has been signed between India and France has been finalised entirely by the Prime Minister’s Office overriding serious concerns expressed by the Defence Ministry of Modi’s own government. Even though it is being projected as a deal between two governments, the deal is not backed by any sovereign guarantee from the French government. The deal does not have any in-built anti-corruption clause as mandated by the current standard defence purchase protocol meant to be followed by any Indian government. And the deal provides for 36 aircrafts fully manufactured in France in utter violation of the ‘Make in India’ motto and without any provision of technology transfer to India.
We know that till Modi announced an entirely new deal during his Paris visit in April 2015, the Defence Ministry and External Affairs Ministry were telling us about the old deal involving HAL as the Indian partner. We now also know that about a fortnight before Modi’s visit, Anil Ambani visited the French Defence Minister’s office, expressed his interest in the deal and mentioned the MoU under preparation that would be signed during Modi’s visit. It was just around that time that he had his own defence company incorporated in India. Needless to remind our readers that Anil Ambani was part of Modi’s delegation and his just born company Reliance Defence replaced HAL as the key Indian partner in the deal.
The BJP is trying to defend the Rafale deal by accusing the opponents of conspiring against the Air Force. This is the most ridiculous defence that one can imagine. When VP Singh, the BJP and other opposition parties questioned the Bofors deal during the days of the Rajiv Gandhi government, were they trying to weaken the Indian Army? Talking about the Air Force, the BJP actually owes an answer why they changed the deal for 126 aircrafts to settle for only 36 fighter jets. Why did they override the defence ministry objections regarding parallel negotiations by PMO that weakened India’s bargaining power, increased the prices and forced India to settle for a deal without any sovereign guarantee from the French government? The urgency argument raised by some people is also baseless for the aircrafts will not be available till 2022, and by that time the aircrafts will already be technologically dated!
Some people are trying to refute the scam allegation by saying that as of now we cannot see any money trail benefiting the BJP or the Modi government. With the recent amendments made to the rules of corporate funding, the money trail has actually been rendered legally invisible. But while we can make guesses about monetary transactions already conducted or that will materialise in the future, the choice of Anil Ambani’s just incorporated company as a key Indian partner is itself a huge scam. It has now become abundantly clear that the choice was dictated by none other than Prime Minister Modi. Equally scandalous is the hush-hush manner in which the Prime Minister hijacked and finalised the deal, bypassing not only the negotiations that had been initiated by the previous government but also the ground work done by the concerned negotiating team of his own government.
The Rafale Deal signed in April 2015, the note ban announced in November 2016 just on the eve of the UP elections, and the midnight coup in CBI in late 2018 are three major examples of the arbitrary, conspiratorial and despotic manner in which the Modi government has been functioning. All major decisions have been completely centralised, with the trio of Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and Ajit Doval calling all the shots. Any different opinion coming from any ministry or any institution has been systematically bypassed or suppressed. Crony capitalism has reached a level where the Prime Minister effectively works as the middleman to get a share of a lucrative defence contract for a failed business baron who is filing for bankruptcy in telecommunications sector. The new facts coming to light have rendered the Supreme Court judgement untenable. A joint parliamentary probe into the Rafale deal is a must. And for the people of India, it has now become imperative to vote out the most corrupt, communal and despotic regime in India’s history in the forthcoming elections.