What is good for the goose is good for the gander. The Rafale controversy doesn’t gel with Modi Government’s appropriation of truth, nationalistic pride & rule book functioning theory.
“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion “. Nothing explains the theory of probity in public life better than this ‘worth in Gold’ excerpt, churned from the bygone era story of a celebrated Roman king. Rafale is its modern day parallel. Till such time the trappings of power do not allow any indiscretion to slip through the tiny slits of your impregnable fortress, disturbing your poise & with it the public order, there can be no argument made to the contrary. What perhaps has added oxygen to the suspicion is the hindsight expression, of some kind of guilt, disguised as typo & running hastily back to the SC by this Government. Once the SC had spoken, regardless, it is mystifying to see a harried law machinery scamper back, looking for succour from the top court.
Curiously the SC may have lent due credence to the guile & disguised language of the Govt. attorneys, who it appears sought to outfox everyone using ‘the Sealed envelope’ fad as a stratagem. But little did they hope that the SC would somewhere in its voluminous judgement refer to the ‘CAG’ & ‘PAC’ being either privy to the report or having studied this in entirety & hence signed the clean chit for the government. It must have been the emergence of a realisation that all wasn’t in sync with their moral & judicial obligation to report the facts as they stood, that the government shivered, fearing wrath & displeasure of the SC & thus they hustled back, wasting no time. It goes to the opposition’s credit, most notably, the Congress that raised hue & cry on this error & let the cat out of the bag & hence exposed the sealed envelope coup that the government had hoped to take refuge under.
The CAG report is out. Curiously it is authored by someone who was in the finance ministry when the deal was inked. It is like being the Judge, Jury & prosecution all by himself & writing a favourable judgement using the position & authority to his fullest rescue job. That isn’t the way it is meant to be. Even then there is no clean chit to the government, regardless of their pseudo rejoicing, beneath which is masked palpable fear & tension? Contrary to their oft-repeated averment of having saved 9% on the price, it turns out to be meagre 2.86%. Dassault seems to have made more money by refusing to sign the banking & sovereign guarantees. The other major exclusion is the number of aircrafts procured with barely any tangible reduction in deliver deadlines. How did you settle for 36 aircrafts only when our defence forces have expressed a dire need for a minimum of 126 machines? So much some of the India specific requirements have been unnecessarily hyped as endorsed by top defence officials. All in all there is nothing that this government can corner the opposition on save for buying itself a temporary truce & refuge under inconsequential semantics & corollaries. The debate is only going to be shriller with each side claiming vindication.
Now that Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Prashant Bhushan have moved the Supreme Court for a review of the judgement calling it flawed as it was largely based on an unsigned note given by the government in a sealed envelope, it would be interesting to know how the top court would react to such a development. What is extremely baffling is that we do not hear a direct answer or explanation by the PM, the chief protagonist of the deal. His oblique references in the Parliament notwithstanding, it appears that there is more than what meet the eye. The buzz & the overwhelming sentiment is that he should have spoken long before Rafale became their (BJP) Achilles heel. Isn’t clean governance about being answerable & accountable to public at large? More so when so much of muck is flung without any end to it. And when a certain Rahul Gandhi goes on & on about his tirade against the PM, how does it strengthen or suit the highest seat, not letting people know his side of the story.
Even in the recent exchange of letters between the ailing Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar & congress President, the latter remains unwaveringly sure about grave irregularities in the deal. Rahul does not stop there; He refers again to the audio conversation that Mr. Parrikar had with one of his cabinet (Goa) ministers.
The other important thing is the offset partnering. Notwithstanding what Hollande, the former French President may have or may not have said about this issue, it is common sense that in a deal of such immense security implications, you shouldn’t be seen propagating or recommending or being wishy washy on who the offset partner should be; End of the day, an offset partner is not any roadside motor mechanic if & when demanded by the ultra sophisticated machines. The natural thing for any responsible government to do would be to either guide the foreign partner about this or put in a clause that envisages minimum qualifications for the local offset partner. Clearly then you wouldn’t be expected to take refuge under a private to private company subterfuge when the main agreement you say is inter governmental.
It is not our case to cast aspersions on anyone’s integrity; However those at the helm who have been championing the very essence of national interest first, they are expected to be the most sanguine while negotiating such deals. It is this pivotal issue of eradicating corruption from public life & in government that brought BJP to power in 2014. There is little that they can write home about this scourge. It was BJP in opposition that wanted to bring in legislation to check political funding. Strangely they brought in an absolutely contrarian bill that to our knowledge cleared any last remnants of checks & balances & opened up more avenues for all parties to fill in their coffers. Selection of offset partners in defence deals is one such conduit used by the political outfits. More so when our own arms industry, our ordnance factories and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) have either failed in their endeavour or were allowed to slip into irrelevance in order to keep the flourishing trade of kickbacks alive.