Offset partners can’t be chosen without government clearance: Congress

New Delhi: Maintaining the heat on the Narendra Modi government over the Rafale fighter jet deal, the Congress on Tuesday said that under the defence procurement rules, an offset partner can be chosen only with the Indian government’s clearance and the Modi government is “lying” on the issue.

The Congress also demanded that the government clarify that it did not violate the rules in giving the offset contract to a private firm, new to the business, instead of the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) that has vast experience in fighter plane manufacturing.

“On a bare bone text reading of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2013/2016, it makes amply clear that an offset partner cannot be selected without thorough evaluation and scrutiny by the Defence Minister and the Defence Acquisition Wing of the Ministry,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said.

“Why were all rules and procedures laid down in the DPP violated? The DPP, which is the master document laying down procedure for all defence procurements including G2G purchases, mandates scrutiny and evaluation of offset partners by Defence Offset Management Wing (DOMW) so that government accountability and monitoring exist in selection and execution of offset contracts.

“Was this procedure bypassed or deliberately ignored by the Raksha Mantri?” Sibal demanded to know.

He said that the Modi government needs to share evidence to show they complied with DPP offset guidelines in approving Reliance Defence as offset partner.

“If no proof exists, then that means entire Rafale deal is in violation of defence procurement procedure…The Defence Minister is lying when she says government had no role in selection of offset partner,” he said.

He stressed that as per DPP 2016, the government had to be, and “must have been”, apprised of the developments at “every step” (in selecting an offset partner).

“What extraordinary expertise this private firm brought to the table to displace the time-tested HAL? Unless with a specific direction from the Prime Minister, which professionally-run company like Dassault Aviation will select as an offset partner, a company with zero experience of manufacturing aircraft and which did not have land or a building to manufacture anything at all? Was it a viable commercial decision?” Sibal said.

Taking a jibe at Modi’s “na khaoonga, na khane doonga” (Neither will I take bribe, nor let others do) maxim, Sibal said that the Prime Minister should now change his motto to “na bataoonga, na batane doonga” (Neither will I reveal, nor let others do).