Special Report

Rafale clean chit: Noise persists

Rafale clean chit: Noise persists

At the outset, the Supreme Court order in the Rafale case has left us a little confused. For, the reference by the apex court to the CAG report is puzzling because such a report has not been seen by anyone, not even by those who are supposed to get it as a matter of right. Again, we can straightaway dismiss the thought that the government wrongly pleaded before a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice S K Kaul and Justice K M Joseph that such a report had been readied by the CAG when in reality it was not. Yet, only a clarificatory order from the apex court can end the confusion.

However, the clean chit given by the court on a PIL filed by a clutch of anti-government activists may not put a lid on the controversy. Having seized upon some half-baked information, Rahul Gandhi is unwilling to let go of the charge with the sole objective of denting Modi’s clean image. He may not succeed but his daily parroting is likely to sow doubts in the minds of the prime minister’s critics. Without for a moment questioning Modi’s intent and integrity, it needs to be said that the government has not been forthcoming in setting at rest the Rafale controversy.

The most controversial part is not that anyone in government or in the ruling party took commission like Quattorrocchi  and his Indian partners did in the Bofors and several other deals for over two decades when the Italian thug was located in New Delhi. No. The thrust of the charge centres around the selection of Anil Ambani’s company for executing the offsets contract. It is his entry into the deal which has become most contentious.

Rahul Gandhi repeatedly using the junior Ambani’s name to paint Modi corrupt ought to persuade the not-so-successful brother of Mukesh Ambani to either come forward to explain his role, or, in the larger interest of the country which has been denied the latest fighter aircrafts for nearly two decades, he should voluntarily opt out of the contract. Given that he has been obliged to shut down several businesses, it should not be difficult for him to step aside for the French manufacturers to be able to partner another Indian party for offsets.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court judgement provides relief to the Government. It can now take the battle of perception into the Congress camp. It is ironic that Rahul Gandhi should be levying charges of corruption in defence deals given that the Congress party, especially after coming back to power in 1980, had virtually institutionalised bribe-taking in defence procurement. Bofors was but only one of the several multi-crore deals in which commissions were paid to people close to the ruling politicians.

It is a matter of fact that without having any known sources of income, several generations of the Nehru-Gandhis have lived in the lap of extreme luxury. Who pays the bills of foreign travel, foreign studies, extravagant lifestyles, all-paid holidays in exotic locales, premium schools and colleges, plush private houses and farms, etc., does not call for an inquiry by a joint parliamentary committee. People know how the extended Gandhi parivar has gained enormously from its lien on power.

On the other hand, the Chowkidar whom Rahul Gandhi has the temerity to call ‘chor’ has a proven record of financial honesty. His mother, brothers, sisters and the extended Modi family live in the same lower-middle class conditions as they have all along long before Modi first became the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Generally, a one-term member of a municipal corporation wipes out his and his family’s poverty, but not Modi.

Therefore, Rahul Gandhi’s audacious bid to tar the image of Modi is bound to fail. Yes, Modi can be unilateral, can cut through the red-tape to take decisions which seem arbitrary, but he is incorruptible. If he is corrupt, we need more than Rahul Gandhi’s word to be convinced. Yes, we too find that there is something that does not meet the eye in the way the Rafale deal was signed.

Given that the process to procure the fighter jets had begun in 2003, and A. K. Antony did not have the courage and good sense to sign the deal for a decade even for a single jet, though they talked of getting 126 of them, Modi did no wrong in getting 36 in a fighting-fit condition. The choice of the offset partner was ill-considered. And if Anil Ambani opts out he can effectively silence the noise over Rafale even after the apex court clean chit.

Editorial FPJ


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