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Virendra Kapoor

After apex court, CAG nails the relentless campaign of calumny on Rafale deal

Anil Ambani has apparently offered to relinquish the Rafale offsets contract worth about Rupees eight thousand crores, and not Rs. 30,000 crores as Rahul Gandhi wrongly claims. But Ambani has one condition: He would step aside only if Sanjay Bhandari, the arms dealer friend of Robert Vadra, is given the contract. Bhandari’s company, Offsets India Solutions, has been up and running since 2008. Purportedly between Vadra and Bhandari they seem to have a solution to everything connected with the defence contracts.

Bhandari fled the country following CBI raids at his premises three years ago. A plush flat in an upper-crust part of London serves as base while he scours the world in search of lucrative deals. Millions of dollars stolen from this country allow him to live a life of great luxury. He is also reported to have furnished the benami flat of Vadra in a tony part of London at a cost of over GBP 70,000, the last according to the Enforcement Directorate.

Regardless of the levity about Anil reneging on the contract, note the reaction of the Congress caboodle to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the purchase of Rafale. A well-educated P Chidambaram revealed his manners, calling the report “ useless.” He did not stop there. He called the institution of the CAG “ a joke” and accused the current incumbent of “ submitting meekly” to the government. Reminds of the time when Rajiv Gandhi had called the Planning Commission members `jokers’. And who do you think was the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission? Manmohan Singh, of course.

Had the CAG presented a report reflecting the opinion of Chidambaram and company, he would have been lavished high praise and the institution called the “ lone beacon of hope” in a squalid landscape where every other constitutional authority was compromised. By the way, remember that like his leaders, Chidambaram too along with his wife and son, who in a Freudian slip named his company, Advantage Strategic Consultancy , --- the sole strategic advantage being his father’s ministership --- is facing serious charges of abuse of power to enrich his wife and son.

Meanwhile, the CAG has found no trace of hanky-panky in the Rafale deal. In fact, the NDA deal is nearly three percent cheaper. In reality, NDA would have been fully justified if its deal was a little costlier due to the costs of design and development to be spread over 36 aircraft as against 126.

But the more pertinent point the CAG makes is that the 2007 deal with Dassault itself was flawed. The Dassault offer was not cheaper than that of the rival bidders nor did it meet all the technical specifications. The bid of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) was the lowest, even though it did not fully meet the IAF requirements. In 2007, when the UPA selected Rafale as the lowest bidder, the EADS offered a further 20 percent price-cut. Why the UPA did not consider it is not clear. Nor is it clear why the NDA did not consider the Euro fighter offer.

The report finds fault with both the Medium Multi--Role Combat Aircrafts (MRCA), one from Rafale and the other from the European conglomerate. Clearly, the implication is that the UPA favoured Rafale and Modi went with its choice. The CAG does not go into the selection of offsets partner in this and several other deals, which it would do in a separate report.

But the fact that the NDA deal was 2.9 percent cheaper knocks the bottom of the malicious campaign that the price was jacked up to benefit Ambani. The report also finds fault with the IAF for changing specifications. The Air Staff Qualitative Standards were changed four times. This led to further delay. Nonetheless, the India-specific enhancements in the NDA deal saved the taxpayers a lot of money.

On the offsets link-up with Hindustan Aeronautical Limited, the report is damning. Under the UPA no agreement could be reached over the man-hours required --- HAL demand was in several multiples of what Dassault was ready to grant. Besides, Rafale was not ready to give performance guarantees of HAL-built Rafales. Given the way HAL- built and - maintained aircrafts keep falling regularly , causing loss of precious lives and aircrafts, who can blame Dassault?

In sum, the NDA deal was fully kosher.

Meanwhile, it is futile to expect that Rahul will stop beating the Rafale drum. If the Supreme Court failed to put some sense in their heads, it is hard to believe the CAG would. The objective behind the jarring Rafale raga is not to find fault with the deal but to tar Modi’s image. If the campaign of lies and half-truths undermines faith in the entire defence procurement, so be it.

Rahul will continue chanting Rafale, Rafale since it is the only mantra that can help him leapfrog into the prime ministerial ~gaddi~. And if not, at least gives him, his mother and brother-in-law respite from Modi who has had the temerity to slap cases of criminal fraud against them. Remaining out of jail is a bigger priority than prime ministership. And if Modi retains power, it is more than likely the criminal cases might reach judicial conclusion.

It rankles Gandhi that ordinary voters are impressed with Modi for running a scam-free government. Which explains the derogation of the prime minister as “chor” and, lately, as “gaddaar.” A level of maturity is needed to avoid such hyperbolic abuse against an incumbent prime minister. Best to ignore such dreadful imprecations from a 48-year-old who by dint of a hereditary right has come to head the Grand Old Party.

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A crude conman

A senior Delhi High Court advocate received a recorded call from someone claiming to speak from the Aam Admi Party. After checking which language he was comfortable with, it said that `your name has been deleted from the electoral list along with that of tens of lakhs of Delhiites. We are trying to get it restored. Please remember AAP is doing its best to help you get your vote back. ’ Surprised, my lawyer friend checked the electoral rolls and found his name had never gone missing in the first place.

Reminds me of the Hindi movies of yore when the hero, desperate to win the trust of the heroine, would induce a neighbourhood hood to harass the girl so that he can fortuitously emerge from nowhere and save the damsel in distress in the nick of time.

Really, AAP is an antithesis of a clean government it promised from the Anna Hazare platform.

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Chaiwala versus bricklayer’s daughter

It occurs to me if like Modi, who constantly draws attention to his `chaiwala~ past, Sonia Gandhi too had exploited her background as a poor bricklayer’s daughter in order to identify herself with the Indian masses, maybe the Congress Party would have regained some of its lost glory. Or she thinks pretending to be royalty helps her command the respect of Congressmen who, in any case, are used to be most obsequious before The Leader?