Rafale: Beyond the privilege issues

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Rafale ‘clean chit’ to the government is becoming more and more clumsy with each passing day, with the latest round marked by tit-for-tat privilege motions between the government and the Opposition, leading to adjournment of both houses of Parliament on Tuesday. The court reference to CAG and PAC in its verdict while giving the all-clear to the government has caused huge embarrassment not only to the court, but to the government, which has been accused by the Congress party of deliberately misleading the court. Notices of breach of privilege motions have been moved against PM Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. Rahul faces the charge of breach of privilege for his ‘falsehoods’ over the fighter deal in his speech during the debate on the no-confidence motion against Modi government in July. There have also been more stinging attacks outside Parliament.

Congress is accusing the government of ‘lying’ to the court over the so-called CAG report, supposed to have been examined by the PAC, which the court has referred to in its verdict giving the Modi government the clean chit. The government has, however, moved a special plea before the court, requesting it to make a correction over the error with regard to PAC and CAG. The government claims that the court misinterpreted two sentences in its note. Congress alleges that the ambiguity was introduced deliberately to mislead.

The Opposition is also highlighting other incongruities in the court’s verdict. The court said the pact between Reliance and Dassault existed since 2012 while Reliance Defence was incorporated only on March 28, 2015. Similarly, the government contention that HAL had nothing to do with the Rafale deal has been taken by the court on its face value, although the claim is far from the truth. A work share agreement with HAL had been signed during the UPA rule itself.

Irrespective of whatever happens to the privilege motions, the credibility of the Rafale deal, including the court’s clean chit, will continue to be dogged by controversy. The Opposition benches have demanded a JPC probe into the entire deal and are unlikely to give in easily, given the predicament the ruling alliance finds itself in. But the treasury benches, on their part, have also landed some solid causes to confront Congress with. The conviction of Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is a serious embarrassment to Congress and the Gandhi family and Rahul Gandhi had serious problems running away from questions raised by media persons as he emerged from Parliament after the adjournment of the houses over the Rafale privilege motions. The dragging of Kamal Nath’s name into the debate, although there is no FIR against him in any court, is also not a particularly comforting thought.