Jaitley rules out JPC on Rafale, says previous panel on Bofors was a ‘parliamentary fraud’

New Delhi, Jan 2: The government on Wednesday directed its tirade against Congress vis-a-vis a series of defence deals in the country under previous regimes and categorically ruled out a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe on Rafale aircraft deal saying Congress wants to stage a ‘fraud’ on the parliamentary system as they had done with the JPC on Bofors.

“The JPC on Bofors (headed by B Shankaranand) was a fraud on parliamentary system. It had given clean chit to the then Government on Bofors. They want to commit the same fraud, they want to invent a corruption where there is none,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said in Lok Sabha in his intervention on the debate on the Rafale aircraft deal.

“There can be no JPC on Rafale,” he said.

Detailing the price scheme of the aircraft, Jaitley, who held Defence portfolio for two brief spells, clarified the price difference of a bare aircraft and that of a weaponised one. 

Finance Minister said, “On price is of a bare aircraft, an aircraft is a mere flying instrument and not a weapon. Another price is for the weaponised aircraft, where weapons are fitted. In 2007 an offer was received, the offer of 2007 had both the prices and we have already told the price of the basic aircraft.”

“If we disclose the price of the weaponised aircraft then even the enemy would know the type of the weapon, along with that would be a breach of the contract. Price is never firm, every year the price escalates,” he added. 

“Our basic price was 9 per cent cheaper than UPA….our weaponised aircraft price was 20 per cent cheaper than UPA,” he insisted.

Mr Jaitley maintained the Supreme Court had satisfied itself about the pricing but the Congress party continued to play it up purely for electoral politics.

Countering Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s charge, Mr Jaitley said, “We are all utterly disappointed, the country is disappointed because every word Mr Rahul Gandhi has said is belied in the face of the judgement of the Supreme Court”.

Normally, he said the judicial review is considered the last word. 

However, he said: “There are some people who have a natural dislike for truth. Rafale is similar case ….every word spoken in last six months on this subject including in this House is utterly false”.

Referring to Rahul Gandhi, FM Jaitley said, “It is a tragedy for this country that a grand old party of Indian politics which was in the past headed by legends is today headed by a gentleman who does not even have a basic understanding of what a combat aircraft it”.

Mr Jaitley maintained there are some people who understand the ‘arithmetic of money well’ but is least bothered about national security.

Making a veiled attack on Congress leadership vis-a-vis Bofors scam, he said: “When Rahul Gandhi was a young man, was he playing on the lap of one ‘Q’ (Ottavio Quattrocchi) about whom it was written that Q must be protected at all cost”.

Similarly, Mr Jaitley lashed out at Congress on other scandals.

He also referred to National Herald case and said how a property meant for a trust is converted for a particular family. In this context, he pointed out top Congress leaders were out on bail and now trying to find faults with the BJP and the Modi government.

In reference to another defence scam – AgustaWestland chopper issue – Mr Jaitley said: “Why was the gentleman in custody (Christian Michel) sending emails when AgustaWestland deal was being negotiated and made reference to Mrs Gandhi, R, Italian Lady and ‘son will speak to the mother’.

The debate in Lok Sabha on Rafale row has been marred by as many as two adjournments within an hour session. Some Congress members threw in papers in the House amid din.

Initiating a general discussion on Rafale under Rule 193, and as expected, Mr Gandhi directed his tirade against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the government over the deal with France.

Amid din and chaos due to uproar by sloganeering AIADMK members, Mr Gandhi said essentially the Rafale controversy rests on three pillars of pricing, process and patronage.

He charged that the pricing of the aircraft was changed by the Modi government and it shot up indiscriminately from what was finalised by the erstwhile Rs 526 crore.

Mr Gandhi also said the AIADMK protests was only to shield the Prime Minister.

He alleged a private company was favoured denying opportunities for the state-run HAL.

Among others, Swagat Roy of Trinamool Congress also participated in the debate and said his party is always is favour of clean deals on defence matters.

The Insides Speak