Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that the Congress will not annul the Rafale deal with France if it is voted to power in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. According to a report in The Indian Express, Chidambaram said that the Congress will instead buy more fighter jets at a better deal.
Chidambaram’s remark came on a day when the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on Rafale deal was tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The CAG report put the Congress party on back foot over its claims that NDA’s 2016 deal was 2.86% cheaper than what the Congress-led UPA had negotiated in 2007.
Chidambaram said that it was the Congress that chose the Rafale aircraft for Indian Air Force, adding that if the party forms government, it will explore how to buy 126 fighter jets. “Why should we scrap the Rafale aircraft? Rafale is a good aircraft. We want that aircraft,” he told The Indian Express.
“In fact, if the Congress comes to power, it will explore how you can buy 126 Rafale aircraft, ask for quicker delivery, and bolster the Air Force. But we will certainly look into pricing, we will certainly look into the delivery schedule, we will look into the India specific enhancements to check whether the configuration is the same as we agreed upon. All those will be looked into. But the Rafale aircraft deal will not be scrapped,” Chidambaram said.
“Rafale aircraft would be bought. This deal can undergo changes and modifications to make it a better deal,” he added.
Chidambaram added that the choice of offset partner was surely an issue in the current deal. But he feels that most critical issue was the number of fighter jets Indian Air Force will receive, price and delivery schedule.
When asked about raising the issue before the court, the former Union minister said that he was opposed to the idea of taking the issue to the court and favoured a Parliamentary probe. He ruled out that Congress will approach the court again after fresh revelations in the matter.
“I have never believed that court is the forum to resolve these issues,” he said. Chidambaram said that had a similar thing happened in the US or UK, their Parliament would have immediately started an investigation.
“Unfortunately, we have a Parliament, we have Parliamentary committees, but none of them have suo motu powers or subpoena powers or the power to start an investigation. Unless the government refers it to the committee, the committees are helpless,” he said.
The Congress party has been relentlessly attacking the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the Rafale deal. Its president Rahul Gandhi has even claimed that PM Modi acted as a middleman for industrialist Anil Ambani.
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Source: Financial Express