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Panellists feel the government must make the deal clearer to the public without compromising security interests

Congress president Rahul Gandhi and BJP have been trading charges on the Rafale deal. The Congress is alleging that the scam has bled precious resources. Former Finance Minister P Chaidambaram has alleged that the government is trying to avoid a probe on the issue. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has said that the Congress is making false allegations. Law Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad has gone to the extent of calling Gandhi a Pakistani agent. APN’s popular programme, Mudda, discussed the issue. Anchorperson Anant Tyagi posed questions to panellists including Congress’s Dr Hilal Naqvi, BJP’s Dr Vijay Khera, and APN consultant Govind Pant Raju.

Khera said: “Rahul Gandhi has been making false allegations. BJP had said earlier that ‘many forces did not want the deal to happen’. The French government has given a clean chit to the deal.”

Naqvi said: “The government cannot simply deny all allegations. It should give proof and share details. Why is the government not sharing anything with the opposition parties on this deal? Instead, it is making allegations that the opposition is playing the Pakistani card. Regarding Bofors, all information has been in the public domain. Why is this not so with Rafale? The BJP is saying it’s a government-to-government deal, and no other factor (or company) is involved. Why can’t they set up a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) for this?”

Khera said: “Governments are involved in the deal, but neither government is a manufacturer. Someone has to handle the offset transfer of technology.”

Anant pointed out that the French government had said that India had stated that Reliance will be the only company involved.

Raju said: “Congress is making a big deal out of the Rafale issue. The French and Indian governments have made their statements. BJP and Congress are now trading charges. The issue is that Reliance will handle the offset. BJP is saying that Reliance has always been in the deal. Confusion exists which company exactly? Which Reliance? Is it Reliance Industry? Now the name of Reliance Defence Limited, another company, has cropped up. It is said that Anil Ambani is new to this. But in Gujarat, Anil Ambani’s company has dealt with military projects in the past. “

Khera said: “When the surgical strike happened, the Congress had criticized the strike and insisted on proof. Finally, they were shown proof. It would have been better that no proof had been shown, it would have been better for the security of the nation. Rafale is in a similar vein. After all, China has been in the race. Why should the government make certain things public? No need to set up a JPC for this.”

Naqvi said: “How come Anil Ambani was present at a government-to-government deal? This is the question that we want to know. BJP keeps on denying allegations, but what is the truth?”

Anant asked if the secrecy clause is becoming a safety valve.

Khera said: “If we put Rafale details in the public domain, we will compromise the security of the nation. We can’t have a JPC on this. Where is the corruption in the deal?”

Raju said: “It is right to note that if a JPC is set up the deal might get delayed. But if the deal continues along the sidelines of a JPC, then it’s ok. People need to know why more money had to be coughed up for the deal. The condition of the JPC must be that the deal must not suffer any more delay.”

Khera said:”There is a secrecy clause on both sides. Why should we lay bare all information for China and Pakistan to see?”

Naqvi said: “All we want to know is exactly how much has been coughed up for the deal. What were the circumstances under which Anil Ambani was chosen for handling the offset?”

When Raju said that “HAL role in Tejas performance has been questioned”, Naqvi said: “Is there a guarantee clause in Rafale? Why can’t we get such information?” Raju pointed out that “five years of guarantee has been given”.

Naqvi said:”There’s a difference between Anil Ambani getting the contract and HAL handling it. Tejas was totally indigenous. In Rafale, technology has been imported, and that’s a huge difference.”

Khera said: “In the earlier tender, HAL was mentioned. But Rafale had no confidence in HAL.”

—Compiled by Niti Singh Bhandari

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