NEW DELHI: A senior official of the Defence Ministry (MoD), who had earlier written a dissent note over Prime Minister’s alleged interference in the Rafale fighter jet deal negotiations with France, sought to downplay the issue on Friday, saying, it had nothing to do with its pricing.
”It (the dissent note from MoD on Rafale negotiations) had nothing to do with price. It was about sovereign guarantees and general terms and conditions,” G Mohan Kumar, Defence Secretary at the time of Rafale negotiations was quoted as saying by ANI.
Whatever has been brought out (recent media report on Rafale negotiations) has nothing to do with pricing, G Mohan Kumar added.
The clarification from the senior Defence Ministry official came in the backdrop of reports which said that the (MoD) expressed its strong reservations to the “parallel negotiations” conducted by the PMO with France on the multi-billion dollar Rafale fighet jet deal.
A leading media house had published a report in this regard citing a 2015 note accessed by it.
The publication of the story about the damning dissent note had provided fresh ammunition to the opposition Congress which has relentlessly attacked the BJP government, accusing PM Narendra Modi of signing an overpriced deal for 36 Rafale jets to help industrialist Anil Ambani.
The note, dated November 24, 2015, which was also brought to the knowledge of the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, said maintained that the position taken by the PMO was “contradictory to the stand taken by Defence Ministry and the negotiating team.
The strongly-worded dissent note, prepared by then Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar, further stated that “it is desirable that such discussions be avoided by the PMO as it undermines our negotiating position seriously.”
The note also says “we may advise PMO that any Officers who are not part of Indian Negotiating Team may refrain from having parallel parleys [parleys] with the officers of French Government”.
It further says that “in case the PMO is not confident about the outcome of negotiations being carried out by the MoD, a revised modality of negotiations to be led by PMO at appropriate level may be adopted in the case.”
Latching on to the opportunity to attack the PM, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on Friday targeted PM Modi over claims about the MoD’s objections to the Rs 36,000-crore Rafale deal.
The Rafale deal was announced in 2016 after PM Modi’s talks in Paris with the then French president Francois Hollande.
The Congress contends that the government had finalised an overpriced deal to benefit Anil Ambani, whose firm Reliance Defence, despite lacking experience, was recommended as an offset partner for Dassault, the company manufacturing the Rafale aircraft. Both Dassault and the government have denied the Congress allegations.
Those allegations received a boost after Francois Hollande said that France had no role in the selection of Anil Ambani’s company for the offset clause, in an interview last year.
However, the BJP government has categorically denied any wrongdoing in the Rafale jet deal and accused Congress of politicising the issue and spreading rumours about the same.
Ayodhya on high alert following intelligence inputs
Ayodhya: Amid VIP movements, Ayodhya has been put on high alert soon after intelligence inputs indicated a possible terror attack in the city.
“We have put more force into action. The force has been alerted. Also, intelligence officials in the civil dress have come here. They are checking all hotels, restaurants and railway stations. The police force is vigilant and keeping a track of all the movements,” Anil Kumar Sisodia, Superintendent of Police City, told ANI.
This comes ahead of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray’s visit to Ayodhya on Sunday along with his party MPs.
According to reports, the security has also been heightened keeping in mind the hearing on 2005 Ram Janmabhoomi attack on June 18.
Seven died while cleaning hotel sewer in Vadodara
Vadodara: Seven persons, including four sanitation workers, died due to asphyxiation on Saturday while cleaning sewer of a hotel in Gujarat’s Vadodara district, officials said.
The incident happened at a hotel in Fartikui village in Dabhoi tehsil, about 30 km from Vadodara city. Three employees of the hotel were also among those killed.
“When one sanitation worker failed to come out of the manhole, others went inside. All of them died due to asphyxiation,” district collector Kiran Zaveri told PTI.
Manmohan retires from Rajya Sabha
New Delhi: For the first time in 28 years, former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s name ceased to be part of the list of members of the Rajya Sabha on its Web site, and was included in the list of former members of Parliament.
With the Congress lacking the numbers in the Assam legislature to ensure his re-election, 86-year-old Dr Singh retired from the Rajya Sabha.
Dr Singh, then finance minister in the P V Narasimha Rao government, had debuted in the House on October 1, 1991, from Assam and represented the state for five consecutive terms. He was the leader of the House during his 10 years as PM, and leader of the Opposition from 1998 to 2004.The former PM would now need to wait for the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, an ally of the Congress, to send him to the Rajya Sabha next month or until the next biennial elections in the Upper House in April 2020 when 54 MPs retire.
Five Rajya Sabha members from Tamil Nadu retire in July. The DMK, along with its allies, has the strength in the state legislature to get at least three elected to the Rajya Sabha. It has promised one seat to MDMK chief Vaiko.
However, sources said the DMK and the Congress have not had any discussions on the issue.
The Congress could also hope to send Dr Singh to the Upper House from Gujarat if elections to fill the two vacancies from the state take place together.
The vacancies are on account of two Bharatiya Janata Party Rajya Sabha members from Gujarat, Amit Anilchandra Shah and Smriti Zubin Irani, being elected to the Lok Sabha. Shah has debuted in the Lok Sabha from Gandhinagar while Irani is the Lok Sabha member from Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.
The Congress’s numbers in the Gujarat assembly would ensure the party wins one of the two seats, the other going to the BJP, if elections to the two seats are held jointly.