New Delhi, Aug 8: Senior lawyer-cum-activist Prashant Bhushan and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rebels Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of causing a "massive loss" to the exchequer through the Rafale deal, which also "jeopardized national security".
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, the three leaders appealed the central government to release the details of the new Rafale deal, inked with French arms manufacturer Dassault Aviation in 2015, replacing the pact inked with the same company in 2007 by the erstwhile UPA government.
The trio also sought the Centre's clarification on why the government removed the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), "which was involved in the negotiations since 2007", and inserted the newly floated Reliance Defence Ltd, which has "no experience" in manufacturing aircrafts.
As per the deal inked in 2007, a total of 126 Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts (MMRCA) were to be inducted into the Indian Air Force. 18 of these aircrafts were to be built solely by Dassault in fly-away condition, whereas, the remaining would be built by HAL and Dassault under 70:30 partnership. The cost of the entire deal was pegged at Rs 42,000 crores.
In 2015, however, the deal was abrogated during PM Modi's visit to France, Bhushan pointed out, adding that a new contract was inked which pays a "heftier price" to Dassault for supplying 36 fly-away aircrafts. The deal omits the earlier point of developing 90 other aircrafts in India in coordination with the HAL.
Instead, Dassault, under the new pact, chose Reliance Defence Ltd as its partner for supplying Offsets to the IAF after the 36 fighter jets are inducted.
Shourie said the deal jeopardises national security as the government has ejected the state-owned HAL, which has decades of experience, to benefit a private firm.
"The one organisation in the country which has had decades-long experience in manufacturing aircraft – HAL – has been kicked out of the project, he said, adding, "A private party which has had absolutely no experience in manufacturing aerospace and defence equipment has been handed an enormous financial benefit."