At the moment when the India’s oldest political party is celebrating its emergence as the single largest party in the Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh defeating the saffron party, the Supreme Court giving a clean chit to the Modi government on Rafale jet deal seems to have come as an ‘untimely’ shock for the Congress party.
Giving relief to the ruling government at Centre, the Supreme Court on Friday stated that the decision-making process of the NDA government while purchasing 36 Rafale fighter jets instead of 126 by the previous UPA government from Dassault under Indo-French intergovernmental agreement had no irregularities in it. Moreover, the apex court has also dismissed all the petitions for a court-appointed probe into the deal saying that the “perception by individuals cannot be the subject of roving inquiry” by the court. The three-judge bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Sanjay Kaul and K M Joseph further asserted, “We can’t sit in judgement over the wisdom of purchase of aircraft and continued stating that “our country cannot be allowed to be underprepared. We have interacted with the senior IAF officers and there is no doubt about the need and quality of the Rafale jets.”
Besides that, the clean chit from the SC to the government also included the pricing of Rafale jets and the selection of Indian offset partners including Anil Ambani owned Reliance Defence by Dassault.
Losing not a minute on the face of rejection from three major Hindi belt states, the Bharatiya Janata Party at a breakneck speed demanded an apology from the Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Earlier, the government had already rejected the demand of making the pricing details of the planes public by Congress citing a secrecy clause in the deal.
BJP MLA Atul Save stated, “The Supreme Court has given a clean chit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Modi-led central government has always been fair and all the allegations that Congress has attacked us with are false and hence, the party failed to prove it. Congress has always been telling lies!”
On the other hand, Congress appraised the Supreme Court “finding no substantial evidence of any commercial favouritism in the Rafale deal” as “not a setback at all”. Party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala called the Friday’s verdict “a validation of what the Congress party stated months ago that the SC is not the forum to decide such sensitive defence contracts”. In the meanwhile, the party said that it would keep up its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to investigate the deal, adding that it was the only forum to look into the alleged corruption. Surjewala further attacked the government for giving ‘one-sided and half-baked information’ to the apex court and challenged the government to submit details to a JPC probe.
Shiv Sena legislator Anil Parab said, “This Rafale jet deal issue is a public issue and not concerned to the Supreme Court and as the people of this country want to know the details of the Rafael deal, the government should disclose it.”
The Rafale fighter is a twin-engine Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) manufactured by French aerospace company Dassault Aviation. The Congress unremittingly bombarded the incumbent government for indulging in corruption on the Rs 59,000 crore Rafale deal during the poll campaigns for the recently concluded five-state elections. “Chowkidaar chor hai” was among the most-used phrases by the Congress President as the party accused the government for wittingly getting into an expensive contract as compared to the deal negotiated by the previous UPA government only to help Anil Ambani’s defence company bag an offset partnership with the jet manufacturer Dassault.
Calling the Supreme Court’s decision to give a clean chit to the Modi government ‘shocking’, Senior Congress MLC Bhai Jagtap expressed, “Although we shouldn’t talk against the apex court order, however, when the French government has admitted the existence of fraudulent practices in the jet deal, how can the SC overrule this? We’re really shocked to know this. The BJP must have influenced the Supreme Court.”
“We are not going to budge a bit from our demands and will take this issue to the people, on the roads. We will fight against the SC ruling as we are well aware that this is a clear case of fraudulence and this is something against the interest of the country. We won’t tolerate this,” Jagtap concluded.
Running towards the action-packed Lok Sabha 2019 polls and with the recent development after the SC verdict on the issue, it would be interesting to see how the Congress party remains stick to their guns targetting the saffron party while the truth behind the deal and the allegations too seem to have a long way to get disclosed for the voters!