BJP, Cong continue war of words over Rafale deal

Defence Minister rubbishes Rahul's allegations on Rafale deal

As political controversy kicked in over Congress allegations that industrialist Anil Ambani's company was favoured by the government in Rafale deal, Reliance Defence Limited has rebutted the allegations as "baseless and unfounded".

The Defence Minister hit back at the Congress saying the UPA govt sat over the proposed procurement for 10 years and potentially compromised national security interests.

He asked whether it is correct that per aircraft price of Rafale as per the UPA government's negotiations was United States dollars 80.95 million or Rs 526 crore as against the purchase price by Modi government of Rs 1,570.80 crore per aircraft.

"Whether the minister wants to say that the Modi government will not purchase aircraft from Rafale (in future) after the buying these 36 aircraft?" he asked.

The Congress claimed that each aircraft would cost Rs 526.10 crore as per negotiations done by the UPA government, while the cost has now been escalated to Rs 1,570.80 crore. "The government has negotiated a very good deal". But the per unit cost zooms to nearly Rs 1,640 crore if the overall deal is taken into account, which includes a deadly weapons package, all spares and costs for 75% fleet availability and performance-based logistics support for five years, among other things, as reported by TOI earlier.

Defence minister Niramala Sitharaman addressing a press conference on the Rafale deal.

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The final agreement for the jets was signed the following year. "All procedures were scrupulously followed".

"A responsible opposition can not come out without checking facts", she said. "The UPA government from 2004-2014 could not arrive on a decision to address this critical necessity of fighters for the IAF". "At least, she should tell what is the price of the aircraft?" he said.

She stressed that the Modi government realised the dire situation and ordered 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly away condition as it was an emergency and the Air Force urgently required the fighter jets. It was not financially prudent to negotiate ToT for just 36 fighters, she said.

Sitharmaman's remarks came a day after the Congress accused the prime minister of changing the "entire deal" for the benefit of one businessman.

Reliance Defence and Dassault have entered into a joint venture but Sitharaman clarified that no offset contracts have been signed so far. "Congress government cared least to strengthen our forces and more in commissions", Rijiju said in his tweet.

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