The BJP’s stormy petrel Subramanian Swamy has for long been publicly opposed to the $22 billion Rafale deal, to the point of even suggesting that there was more to the UPA government’s choice than met the eye. In February 2012, The Sunday Times of London quoted Swamy as saying he had initially been told the Eurofighter had won the deal to supply 126 fighter jets but that it all changed after the entry of a veteran French consultant, Bernard Baiocco, an ex-employee of the defence firm Thales, which contributes radar and electronic systems to Rafale. “Baiocco was here (in Delhi) and he went around, and everything changed after that,” Swamy had said, explaining the UPA’s sudden change of heart. With the Modi government poised to indicate its choice, Swamy spoke to Pranay Sharma. Excerpts:
What do you think of the Rafale deal?
It stinks right through. The deal should be frozen or scrapped and negotiations for the MMRCA should begin afresh.
Why do you say this?
There are a number of reasons but foremost Rafale was finalised not through commercial negotiation; it was done by private conversations between Sonia Gandhi, her sisters and Carla Bruni, wife of then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.
Your other objections...
No country outside France has so far bought the Rafale. Some countries had shortlisted it, but rejected it later. We must find out why they did so. We must also know why it is so much more expensive than the other competitors. With the kind of money India has pledged to buy the planes, it can actually buy over the entire company that makes them. Moreover, there are also reports that it is trying to win the contract by giving a subcontract to an influential Indian industrialist. In addition, its performance in terms of fuel consumption etc was much higher and unimpressive during the recent Libyan campaign.
So what should be done about the Rafale deal?
I had written to the UPA defence minister A.K. Antony citing reports and the information on the Sonia Gandhi family’s link with Carla Bruni. Being an honorable man sensitive about his image and reputation, Antony had frozen negotiations with Rafale. I am not sure why Arun Jaitley decided to defreeze it.
The BJP’s in power. Will you ask for Rafale deal to be scrapped?
We have a party meeting coming up in a few days. I will raise the issue not only with defence minister Jaitley but also with PM Narendra Modi. I’ll definitely bring it to their notice.