AK Antony dares Arun Jaitley to place Rafale file notings before House

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NEW DELHI: Congress leader AK Antony on Monday charged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with “twisting facts and misleading the Lok Sabha” by saying that the former defence minister had called for a re-look of the Rafale deal even after signing the Contract Negotiating Committee report.

Antony also challenged Jaitley to place before Parliament all the related file notings made by him (Antony) in this regard.

Addressing a press conference, the senior Congress leader said when Dassault was selected for L1 during his tenure as UPA defence minister, two senior BJP leaders –– Subramanian Swamy and Yashwant Sinha –– had sent complaints to him alleging wrongdoings in the selection of Dassault. Three members of the Contract Negotiating Committee had also raised similar objections with the department of defence. He said that while Swamy complained of corruption, Sinha had objected to the life-cycle clause.

“On receiving these complaints, I had asked a committee comprising the Ministry of Defence and MoD (Finance) to look into these complaints to ensure that there was no foul play and that the integrity of the process was not compromised.

Since the Indian Air Force was also pressing for early completion of the contract, I had also directed that the process of finalising the contract can continue even as this committee was examining the merits of the complaints. After completing their inquiry, the committee of MoD formally conveyed to me that all the complaints were found incorrect and, thereupon, I signed the Contract Negotiating Committee report.

However, when it was sent to the Ministry of Finance, they had raised objections to the life-cycle clause. Yet, by the time UPA left office, we had finalised 90% of the process,” Antony said. “The finance minister is a good lawyer and he twists facts. But, this kind of twisting of facts is too much,” Antony quipped.

On media reports about the HAL facing financial difficulties now, Antony accused the Modi government of destroying a Navratna PSU, which was cash-rich during the UPA tenure. “When we (UPA) left office, the gross cash balance of HAL was Rs 17,671 crore. Now, reports say that HAL is even borrowing money to pay the salary for its employees….There is a clear case of foul play, a deliberate act to destroy our Navratna PSU by this government,” he said.

Maintaining that HAL had a track record of manufacturing around 4,600 aircraft and over 4,900 aircraft engines, Antony alleged that senior ministers of the Modi government were deliberately making statements to tarnish the image of HAL by saying that it did not have the technical knowhow to manufacture Rafale. “In early 2016 itself, both the then HAL chairman and then Dassault chief, had said that 90% of the negotiations for the Rafale offset contract for HAL was complete. What has happened since then?” he wanted to know.





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