Karaikudi: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Monday demanded to know why the NDA Government was now buying just 36 Rafale fighter jets if it had really negotiated a price cheaper than what had been agreed to during the UPA regime when the agreement for buying 126 aircrafts was inked with the French.
“They claimed that the fighter jet was cheaper...In that case they should tell how they (jets) are cheaper...They are not revealing...besides if the cost of the plane is cheaper then why not buy more jets? Why is the government buying only 36 jets?” the former Union minister asked, while speaking to reporters here on the sidelines of a party meeting.
He said the Indian Air Force needed at least another seven or eight squadrons of about 16-18 aircrafts each. “We signed agreement for seven squadrons to acquire 126 aircraft. You cancelled that and went for two squadrons”, he said, wondering why the NDA regime chose to drop the intake despite getting the aircraft at a lower price - 9 per cent lower as claimed by them - and despite the IAF badly needing more aircraft.
“This is simple arithmetic. When we find that the price of a commodity we propose to buy has come down, we will buy more of the commodity to take advantage of the fall in price but the BJP Government has done the other way around”, Chidambaram said.
He alleged there was “something fishy” in the Rafale deal and the manner in which the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics had been ignored now in the new deal.
Alleging that Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was “not aware of anything”, he said in the NDA regime, three Union ministers have been taking care of the defence portfolio. “None of them did a proper job”, he said.
Union minister Arun Jaitley had earlier said the fully weaponised fighter jets which his government was buying are 20 per cent cheaper than the ones offered under the previous UPA regime. In 2015, then defence minister Manohar Parrikar had said the government had decided to buy only 36 Rafale fighter jets, scrapping the earlier plan to acquire 126 of the French aircraft, on grounds of huge cost.
A French media report had quoted former French president Francois Hollande as purportedly saying that the Indian government proposed Reliance Defence as the partner for Dassault Aviation in the Rs 58,000 crore Rafale deal and France did not have a choice. Subsequently, the Congress and other Opposition parties have stepped up their attack on the Modi government over the deal....