CHENNAI: Congress leader Sachin Pilot Monday said the government's silence on the Rafale deal was "baffling" and asserted that the opposition was united in getting answers from the Centre on the aircraft procurement.
Addressing a press conference at the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) headquarters here, Pilot said the Congress wants a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to probe the matter.
"Congress has sought a JPC to probe the matter. I see no reason why the government should hesitate to form it," he said.
The party will launch a nationwide campaign covering "every state, district and block" and submit petitions, right from the Governor to the President, seeking a probe into the matter, he said.
The demand for a JPC will be taken up whenever Parliament convenes, added Pilot, who is the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government of not answering questions on the deal Pilot said, "I think the silence is more baffling.
If anything that we are saying is wrong factually, then the government must come forward and clarify.
" "The fact that they choose to remain silent tells you that there is much to hide," said Pilot, adding "the entire opposition is united" on getting answers from the government.
On whether the Congress plans to move the court on the issue, he said "all options are open. If we get no answers, including the JPC, then all our options are open".
Asked if his party would disclose the cost of the deal if it was voted to power, he said such details have been revealed "historically," including that of the Mirage fighter aircraft.
Giving a recap of defence deals under the UPA government, he said they had shortlisted Rafale and Typhoon aircraft and had "settled" Rs 526 crore as the price for a single Rafale aircraft.
The Modi government was however buying the same aircraft for Rs 1,670 crore, which was three times more, he alleged.
Due processes to be followed in such deals like going through the Price Negotiation Committee, Cabinet Committee on Security, the mandatory Defense Procurement Procedure and getting the Cabinet Committee on Security nod were set aside. This was done in complete disregard to the conventions and transparency all defence purchases are put through.
" On the one hand, the government was using the "shield of urgency" to buy the aircraft, but had gone in for only 36 aircraft while the IAF's requirement was 126. If there was urgency, "why has a single aircraft not landed in the country?" he asked.
Pilot further said all indicators like the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited not being taken on board pointed to "malpractice". UPA had talked about making the aircraft in India through Tranfer of Technology, lower price and offset going to HAL.
However, such aspects were set aside and a private entity was encouraged, he said.
Accusing the government of hiding behind the confidentiality clause, Pilot said that as per the Indo-French confidentiality agreement of 2008, the commercial cost of the aircraft can be revealed.
"There is nothing in law that prevents the current government from disclosing the price," Pilot said.
Once the announcement was made to buy Rafale, the other contender Eurofighter had agreed for a 20 per cent discount, said Pilot as he wondered why the government had not re-negotiated the price to lower the cost of the aircraft.
Had HAL been given the offset, it would have led to creation of plenty of job opportunities in the defence sector for the youth of the country, he said.
TNCC President Su Thirunavukkarasar said the state unit would this month embark on a reach-out campaign on the Rafale deal, covering all the districts.
Governor Banwarilal Purhoit will also be petitioned on the issue, he said.
Meanwhile talking to reporters in Puducherry, Congress leader Jaipal Reddy accused Modi of throwing to the winds all procedures governing defence deals and defence procurement.
He alleged that the country had incurred a loss of Rs 41,000 crore by striking a new deal with a French company for purchase of the aircraft.