/Time to end the political mudslinging over Rafale
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Time to end the political mudslinging over Rafale

The Hon. Supreme Court, on Wednesday quashed review petitions pertaining to the purchase of 36 French Rafale aircrafts. With this time has come to put an end to the mudslinging that went on for months during the run up to the 2019 General elections.

Not only did the SC concluded that the review petitions were without merit, it also refused to re-examine the aspects of pricing, decision making and most importantly offsets policy, thus reinstating its Dec 2018 order. The ruling as well as the opposition parties gave their reactions on expected lines. While the BJP said the decision vindicated its stand of “Chowkidar pure hai”, the Congress still seems unsatisfied, and reiterated its demand for a JPC.

Even though the Hon. Court advised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi to exercise caution over the choice of words, the leader continued with his tirade against the Govt. by selectively quoting the remarks of one of the jury member.

The highlighted comments of Jus. Joseph merely mean that the investigating agencies have to find their own ground if they want to pursue the case afresh, as the court cannot summon CBI to register an FIR on the basis of this petition alone. The Lalitha Kumari case referred to is a SC judgment which lays down the guidelines for registering enquiries against Govt officials. Hence, should the authorities choose to initiate a preliminary enquiry, the present judgment won’t come into their way as no court will give a decision that impedes a future investigation. It is clear that Sh. Rahul Gandhi is again hearing things nobody said.

At this juncture it’s necessary to remember the three main controversial issues raised in the petition or the so called irregularities.

The first being price. There are ample numbers of videos, mimes available on social media where the Congress leader is seen quoting a different price of Rafale aircraft. The prime reason for the confusion is because when the UPA Govt in 2007 technically qualified Dassault, the manufacturer of Rafales in the MRCA tender, the budget estimate was around 10 bil $$, which rose to 30 bil $$ in 2014 when the new Govt took over. But two things changed in this period. One, the model of Rafale to be supplied upgraded from F3 to F3R standard, which had better specifications like improved radar. Second was the depreciation that happened to the Rupee currency. Both the factors changed the price to a great extent from the time Rafale was chosen by IAF till the moment deal was signed. Add to the above fact that IAF asked some specific enhancements to be made, which were not part of the earlier MRCA negotiations.

Second point of contention being the decision making process which was essentially the same ,as earlier the UPA too had selected Rafale along with Eurofighter Typhoon. Choosing to go for a G2G deal with French Govt saved precious time retendering would have taken.

The third and major controversy was around offsets policies of which the Anil Ambani group was a part. One advantage of the new deal was the increase in offset value from 30% to 50%, thus bringing in more investment into Indian aerospace industry. The public was made to remember only Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, conveniently ignoring the 20 odd other companies which were partnered with for executing offset obligations. These included corporate like L&T, Godrej, Kalyani etc whose names didn’t invoke any crony capitalism.  Apart from Dasssult, its associates have even partnered with the state run HAL, a company mainstream media told us was on the verge of closure. The complete list of offset partners can be found in the link below.

The whole saga of Rafale has been more of smokes and mirrors than a scam. Not to forget that the controversy rose and fell with the General Elections. Another eerie coincidence was the beginning of the controversy which started after Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Britain and Germany in 2017. It was then the ex Congress president began calling Rafale a scam. Coincidentally Britain and Germany are the major contributors to the Eurofighter Typhoon project, a major contender in the MRCA tender. It’s not impossible to believe that think tanks in these countries influenced Rahul Gandhi’s opinion. Don’t we know, he was one leader, who chose to understand the Doklam situation by having dinner with Chinese diplomat?

Whatever may be the motivations, the time for extracting political mileage from Rafale has long gone. It is time we end the mudslinging, and let the Rafale fly the Indian skies, like a Rafale, a gust of wind.

I am a marketing professional with corporate experience in cement, b2b project sectors. Passionate to write about geopolitics, defense, economic and political affairs of the country.