Reliance Defence granted offset contract in Rafale deal without licence: Congress

AICC media incharge Randeep Surjewala also charged Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of lying on the grant of offset contract to Reliance.
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala (File | PTI)
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala (File | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The Congress appears to be in no mood to let the pressure go off PM Modi over the Rafale jet deal alleging a huge scam in the deal announced in 2015 under which India will purchase of 36 aircraft from French manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

The two main points of the Congress attack relate to threefold jump in price of the aircraft from Rs 526 crore under UPA to Rs 1670 cr and offset benefits worth Rs 30,000 crore to private sector Reliance in violation of rules. "The PM should clarify over the deal as he has been peddling lies after lies on the issue. It is like compromising with national security," Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala said.

The attack came days after the opposition party moved breach of privilege motions against the PM and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman for misleading the Lok Sabha over the deal.

With Speaker Sumitra Mahajan yet to decide to accept or reject the motion pending, the Congress came out with fresh charges to indicate a scam. Citing a PIB release of February 7, 2018, where Sitharaman claimed that offset contract had not been awarded by Dassault, the Congress said the French company's 2016 annual report mentioned that such contract was being executed by Reliance.

"Who is lying? Defence minister Sitharaman or Dassault Aviation? Reliance's offset contract is Rs 30,000 cr and a consequent lifecycle cost contract of Rs 1,00,000 cr," said Surjewala. The Congress further alleged that the offset contract violated several rules.

"When defence offset contract is signed, it requires the permission of defence ministry's acquisition manager and the contract should be audited by defence minister. All these rules were violated," said Surjewala. "Also, when Reliance Aerostructure Ltd was given contract to make planes, it did not even own land on date of acquiring industrial license February 22, 2016. What was even more surprising was that RAL was incorporated on April 24, 2016, just 14 days after the announcement of Rafale deal."

"This premise was in fact purchased by another company Reliance Defence on January 18, 2016. Reliance Defence was set up just 12 days before the deal was announced by PM. Approval for offset contract to Reliance Defence from defence minister Sitharaman was absent. This is in complete violation of guidelines," Surjewala said.

The Congress also pointed out that the day Reliance Aerostructure was granted licence to make aircraft on February 22, 2016, the company had mentioned its address as "Survey no 589, Taluka Jafrabad, Village Lusanpur, district Amreli, Gujarat" but the ownership of the said property was with "Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Company Ltd."

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