CAG to submit crucial report on Rafale deal to Modi govt soon
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) is likely to send its report on the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets to the Narendra Modi government on Monday. Top sources in the CAG said last week the "exit conference", which is the last level of consultation between the auditors and the government, was concluded. The sources said the report was sent for printing on Friday.
"If all goes well, the audit report on the 2016 Rafale deal via an inter-government agreement between India and France is ready to be sent to Parliament for tabling anytime starting Monday," a source in the CAG, who is privy to the development, told India Today TV on the condition of anonymity.
The CAG report is expected to trigger another round of political clash between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress had petitioned the CAG to hasten the audit of the Rafale deal last year. Over the past several months, the Opposition, particularly the Congress, has been attacking the Modi government of wrongdoings in the Rafale deal.
The Congress has alleged that PM Modi is personally involved in the wrongdoing. The party has been accusing him of crony capitalism and nepotism, a charge theta the prime minister and BJP have rubbished.
The Opposition has charging the prime minister with signing a deal that involves "glaring irregularities in the multi-billion dollar deal", including huge escalation in the price of each Rafale jet compared to the deal negotiated by the UPA government.
In case the CAG report highlights irregularities in pricing of the Rafale fighter jets or the procedure followed in signing the deal, the Opposition's narrative will receive a significant boost ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
As per procedure, the CAG report has to be presented in Parliament and then sent to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) for examination.
If the report is tabled sometime after Monday, there would be just two days left in the Budget session for Parliament to take a look before the Lok Sabha elections. The government will be under tremendous pressure from the Opposition to table the report at the earliest.
Meanwhile, with barely a couple of months left for the Lok Sabha elections, the PAC may not have sufficient time to put the report through the usual scrutiny. The term of the PAC will end with the current Lok Sabha.
At present, the PAC is headed by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. He may find it difficult to create and adopt a report on the CAG report submitted to it because a majority of the members of PAC are from the BJP.
The Opposition has been using every opportunity to target the Modi government over the Rafale deal. Last week, The Hindu in a report claimed that the defence ministry had objected to the PMO making "parallel negotiations" with the French side. The report claimed that the defence ministry had said that these "parallel negotiations" are weakening the defence ministry's negotiating power.
Armed with the newspaper report, Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a press conference in New Delhi and reiterated his attack saying the prime minister is "corrupt" and a "thief".
On the other hand, the government countered the claim made by The Hindu saying the note produced by the newspaper was "cropped" to hide the comments written on it by then defence minister Manohar Parrikar.