Modi hiked benchmark price of Rafale deal from euro 5.2 bn to 8.2 bn: Congress

New Delhi: Claiming “fresh revelations” in the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Congress on Friday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi increased the benchmark price of the deal from euro 5.2 billion to 8.2 billion, resulting in a loss to the exchequer.

“Fresh revelations further expose brazen corruption practices in Rafale deal. The entire spectrum of deception lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister, who overruled the objections raised and recorded by the ‘Negotiations Team’ in Rafale deal,” the party said ahead of the resumption of the debate on the deal in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

Addressing a press conference in Parliament, senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “The Modi government has gone to the extent of even submitting false affidavits to mislead the Supreme Court to hide the truth of the Rafale scam. This kind of government should be terminated.”

Attacking the Modi government, he said the country has now understood how big the Rafale scam is.

“The Modi government is doing everything in its might to hide it,” Azad said. “Therefore, we have always believed that JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee) is the only appropriate medium to look into the matter.”

Accusing the BJP-led government of increasing the benchmark price of the Rafale deal, he said: “The Prime Minister increased the ‘Benchmark Price’ from euro 5.2 billion to euro 8.2 billion.”

Senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Mallikarjuna Kharge accused Modi of lying to Parliament and the Supreme Court.

Kharge said: “They submitted false affidavits regarding CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report and is claiming to have got a clean chit from Supreme Court.

“Those who are defending the Prime Minister are lying,” he said.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also slammed the Prime Minister and said that fresh revelations further expose the brazen corrupt practices in the Rafale deal.

“The entire spectrum of deception lies at the doorstep of the Prime Minister, who overruled the objections raised and recorded by raised by the ‘Negotiations Team’ in Rafale deal,” Surjewala said.

Hitting out at Modi over the “increased benchmark” price, the Congress leader said: “This fact was also confirmed in November 2018 by Sudhanshu Mohanty, Head of Finance, Ministry of Defence (until May 2016), who spilt the beans and indicted the Modi government.”

He claimed that till date the Prime Minister or Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) did not contradict the statement of Mohanty.

Surjewala also accused Modi of waiving the ‘Advance and Performance Bank Guarantee and Sovereign Guarantee’ and said: “Objections on the Defence Ministry file reads no advance and performance bank guarantee has been obtained from Dassault Aviation and the advance payments made prior to delivery are not secured.”

Showing the documents, Surjewala claimed that on December 9, 2015, the Law Ministry flagged the issue of ‘no bank guarantee/sovereign guarantee’ by the French government and noted the concern that the deal involves huge payout from public exchequer without actual delivery in form of advance payments.

“On March 7, 2016, then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar refused to opine or accept the ‘Letter of Comfort’ in lieu of the ‘Bank-French Government Guarantee,” Surjewala said.

He also said that on August 18, 2016, the Air Acquisition Wing of the Defence Ministry put up a note stating that bank guarantees may be insisted from France as required and the Indian side may bear bank guarantee charges.

“On August 23, 2016, Law Ministry again reiterated to the Defence Ministry about the requirement of ‘French Government-Sovereign Guarantee’ as a condition of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP). And on August 24, 2016, i.e. the very next day, PM Modi, in Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), accepts the ‘Letter of Comfort’ and waives off the condition of ‘Bank Guarantee/French Government Sovereign Guarantee,” he said.

Surjewala also alleged that Modi ignored that ‘maintenance terms and conditions’ that read “the maintenance terms and conditions including PBG (Performance-Based Guarantee) of 36 Rafale IGA was not better than that of 126 MMRCA (Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) Rafale bid.

He said that the file reads: “The delivery schedule of 36 Rafale IGA was not better than that of 126 MMRCA bid.”

“The Prime Minister proceeded despite delivery delays, comprising national security preparedness.”

He highlighted that the objections on the Defence Ministry file said that as per the prices reflected in Dassault’s financial results, it had sold Rafale at a cheaper rate to Qatar and Egypt as compared to India.