The Opposition’s attack on the government over the cost of 36 Rafale jets that India has agreed to buy found support from new quarters on Wednesday. Former cabinet ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha, along with Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan, alleged that the BJP-led government had agreed to buy the 36 aircraft with no additional add-ons and yet will pay Rs 1,000 crore more per plane as compared to the earlier deal.
Union minister Arun Jaitley has called the allegations an attempt to malign the government.
At a press meet, Shourie, Sinha and Bhushan said public sector unit Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, which was part of the original negotiations, was pushed out and a newly-minted company, Reliance Defence Ltd, bagged an offset contract. They said such an agreement between Reliance Defence and Dassault Aviation, which makes Rafale jets, should have come after governmental approval.
Sinha said Bofors “pales into insignificance” when compared to this “scam”. They said statements of then foreign secretary S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar suggest that none of them were aware of the new deal to buy 36 jets, against 126 aircraft as per a Request for Proposal issued in 2007, for which Dassault had been selected as it was the lowest bidder.
“Nobody in the Air Force or the defence ministry was aware” of the red...