Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday asserted the recently-signed Euro 7.878 billion-deal for 36 Rafale fighter jets was the best ever offered to any country, rejecting Swaraj Abhiyan’s Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav’s allegation that India paid double the price.
Parrikar, however, refused to comment on the duo’s allegation that BJP parliamentarian Varun Gandhi was “honey trapped” into leaking defence secrets, a charge stoutly denied by the leader. “How much does it cost to level allegation?” an angry Parrikar retorted when asked about the charge levelled by Swaraj Abhiyan. “Rafale is the best deal that we have managed. It was because Prime Minister of India and President of France agreed that we have this deal which has not been offered to any other country,” Parrikar said.
Earlier in the day, Bhushan told a press conference, “… contrary to previous announcements of getting 126 aircraft, the government bought 36 aircraft, paying double the price for individual units. It certainly appears to be the case that something is fishy.” He said despite having knowledge of all these things, the BJP government did not blacklist Thales, the company that sold scam-tainted Scorpene submarines, as Dassault acquired it.
Dassault Aviation has 25.3 per cent stake in Thales.
Parrikar said nothing has been proved in the alleged Scorpene leak and hence the case for banning any firm does not arise. India recently signed a deal with Dassault for 36 Rafale aircraft. Varun has already denied the charge, saying he has not met middleman Abhishek Verma, to whom he has been accused of having leaked defence secrets, since 2004.
He has threatened to file a defamation suit against Bhushan and Yadav over the charges.