The Union Government has landed itself checkmated on €7.87 Rafale deal with the expose of the Defence Ministry opposing the parallel negotiations when the official ones were going on.
The then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, who way back in November 2015 said that such a ‘parallel’ discussion be avoided by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), has now claimed he “does not remember” the matter now. His refusal to deny such a note and only claim not remembering it is seen as attempt to wash his hands of the controversy.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi lashed out against the PMO immediately after the expose. Mohankumar's note says: “It is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.” It is based on the note by Deputy Secretary SK Sharma on November 24, 2015.
In its submission to the Supreme Court in October 2018, the Union Government said negotiations over Rafale deal were held by a seven-member team with no mention of any role of the PMO in the talks.
But this has pushed the Government to a piquant situation, giving the Opposition an upper hand.
The new Rafale deal was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Paris after which a memorandum of understanding was signed between India and France when President Francois Hollande visited Delhi. The agreement for 36 Rafale fighter jets was signed in September 2016.
Rahul Gandhi was quick to respond saying Modi had ‘cheated’ the people and ‘stolen’ Rs 30,000 crore by holding parallel negotiations to favour industrialist Anil Ambani.
He added that Hollande had admitted that Modi had insisted on giving the contract to Ambani, Rahul added.