Why is BJP afraid of referring the Rafale purchase deal to the Joint Parliamentary Committee to determine if any wrong has been done while determining price of the fighter planes or in allocating the off-set deal relating to these planes to Anil Ambani. During the last six months the issue has been debated in public and in social media as well as all TV channels. Parliament has discussed it for hours, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi has rejected the demand for referring the issue to JPC.
The arguments by treasury benches in favour of rejecting the demand is that the issue has been examined by Supreme Court, the highest judicial forum of the country; as such there was no need to do anything more. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has argued that JPC will serve no purpose as the Bofors deal was examined by JPC, but its report served no purpose.
The only flaw in the argument is that even if the JPC on the Bofors report had served no purpose, Mr Jaitley and others had argued about it for six months and had not given up till the JPC demand was conceded. The JPC, if set up, will be headed by a member of the Ruling party, and a majority of members will be from the ruling party. As it is the members of ruling party and opposition have spent hours every day debating issues related to Rafale planes purchase in public and TV channels every day.
The controversy over Rafale deal has thrown a shadow over the entire process of acquisition of defence equipment and it would be much better if the Rafale deal goes to JPC so that other purchases of the Defence Ministry could be met without controversies . The country cannot live with a situation where the opposition parties in the country and ruling party remain in permanent conflict and Parliament is paralysed.
The JPC is an institution, which has been provided for in the Constitution, to resolve situations when a group of members demand any issue to be referred to it if it cannot be resolved through debates. What is the ruling party scared of? According to them the deal is fair and no favours have been done. It is much better that the JPC takes a view instead of hearing slogans like “Pradhan Mantri Chor hai”.
The controversial issues have been referred to JPCs in the past and will be so done in future. The choice is simple: a paralysed Parliamentary process or a JPC verdict. There is no need for BJP to feel that in case issue of Rafale is sent to JPC, it is a defeat for them as verdict need not be an embarrassment for them. The responsibility of running Parliament is of the ruling party and they should accept that ground reality.
In this particular case it will not be a compromise but only conceding a demand because other side is unreasonable and is persisting with a unreasonable demand. The alternative will be much better. In case BJP continues with its present stand f trying to bury the issue with a hope that it will disappear is not likely. A juicy issue of purchase of weapons involving such a large sum will remain alive as polls are so close.
The ruling party should also realise that some dirt will stick as long the details of raffle deal are explained. The issues how price changed between original deal and final deal. Why Anil Ambani company was selected in place of HAL for off-set. If the price was reduced why order was reduced as the need for planes was decided by IAF had remained same. Someone is responsible for not insisting on technology transfer and jobs being shifted to France instead of India. Issues need answer.
(Brij Bhardwaj is a veteran journalist and commentator)