Ruling out referring the Rafale deal to a parliamentary panel, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Sunday launched a blistering attack on the Congress, calling it “bad losers” and said the CAG’s view of the deal is not relevant after the Supreme Court’s clean chit.
With the first four days of winter session of Parliament washed out over various protests, Jaitley said the opposition Congress will prefer disruptions over discussion on Rafale during the remainder of the session.
The Congress, which was not a petitioner before the apex court, wants the Rafale deal to be referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to go into the price arrived at by the BJP government versus the one negotiated by the previous UPA regime, as also how billionaire Anil Ambani’s group with virtually no experience in manufacture of fighter jets was selected as an offset partner for the deal.
“After the Supreme Court has spoken the last word, it gets legitimacy. A political body can never come to a finding contrary to what the Court has said,” Jaitley wrote in a Facebook blog, titled ‘Rafale – Lies, Shortlived lies and now further lies?’.
On the Congress claiming ‘ambiguity’ in the Supreme Court judgment that said the deal has been examined by the CAG and is now before Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC), Jaitley said defence transactions go to the CAG for an audit review, which then are referred to the PAC.
“This was factually and accurately stated by the Government before the Court. The audit review of Rafale is pending before the CAG. All facts are shared with it. When its report is out, it will go to the PAC. Notwithstanding this factually correct statement made, if an ambiguity has emerged in the Court Order, the correct course is for anyone to apply / mention before the Court and have it corrected,” he said.
The correct picture has been presented to court and it must now be left to the wisdom of the court to state at which stage the CAG review is pending.
“The CAG review is not relevant to the final findings on procedure, pricing and offset suppliers. But bad losers never accept the truth. Having failed in multiple lies they have now started an innuendo about the Judgement,” he said.
Jaitley said Congress, having failed in their initial falsehood, is now “manufacturing further lies about the Judgement.”
“On facts it lied. The judgement of the Supreme Court conclusively establishes the Congress party’s vulnerabilities in a discussion on defence transactions.
“It will be a great opportunity to remind the nation of the legacy of the Congress Party and its defence acquisitions – a great opportunity indeed for some of us to speak,” he wrote.
The finance minister, who had alongside the defence minister led a spirited counter-attack against the Congress on Friday post the Supreme Court ruling, said the opponents of the Rafale deal had a choice of forum to present their side, and they chose the Supreme Court.
“The Court conducts a judicial review, it is a non-partisan, independent and a fair Constitutional authority. The Court’s verdict is final. It can’t be reviewed by anyone except by the Court itself,” he said. ?
Ruling out setting up a JPC to go into the deal, Jaitley said, “How can a Parliamentary Committee go into the correctness or otherwise to what the Court has said. Is a Committee of Politicians both legally and in terms of human resources capable of reviewing issues already decided by the Supreme Court?”
“On areas such as procedure, offset suppliers and pricing, can a Parliamentary Committee take a different view of what the Court has said?,” he said, asking if a contract be breached, nation’s security be compromised and the pricing data be made available to Parliament or its panel.
He asked what was the experience of JPC when it took up the Bofors deal — the only occasion when it investigated a defence transaction.
“The B. Shankaranand Committee in 1987-88 went into the Bofors transaction. Since Parliamentarians are always split on party lines, it came out with a finding that no kickbacks were paid and the monies paid to the middlemen were ‘winding up’ charges.
“At that time only Win Chaddha appeared to be a middlemen. But then others including Ottavio Quattrocchi, whose bank accounts got detected subsequently, were not entitled to any winding up charges,” he wrote.
Rafale, he said, is a combat aircraft with its weaponry required to improve the strike ability of the Indian Air Force.
“As a political opponent Rahul Gandhi’s opposition to the deal was a desperate attempt. It was the UPA Government which had shortlisted the Rafale as it was technically the best and the cheapest,” he said.
Jaitley also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an inter-governmental agreement, struck a deal with the French government to further improve the terms and conditions, including the prices on which the UPA had agreed.
He claimed Gandhi’s opposition was because Modi has run the cleanest ever government in recent Indian history.
“Secondly, Rahul Gandhi has the burden of a stigmatised legacy which was tainted by Bofors. He was desperate trying to bring an ‘immoral equivalence’ between Rafale and Bofors. But Rafale did not have middlemen, no kickbacks and obviously no Ottavio Quattrocchi,” he said.?
“Thirdly, with international cooperation and Governmental cooperation, scamsters of the UPA Government are now being extradited into India. There is obviously a scare of who will talk how much,” he said.