SC verdict on Rafale deal serves body blow to Congress' concocted campaign; party must seriously rethink strategy - LiveNow24x7: Latest News, breaking news, 24/7 news,live news

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Thursday, 14 November 2019

SC verdict on Rafale deal serves body blow to Congress' concocted campaign; party must seriously rethink strategy

The Supreme Court’s dismissal of a review petition alleging irregularities in the Rafale fighter jet deal serves a body blow to a concocted political campaign which former Congress president Rahul Gandhi and his proxies tried to carry out against the Narendra Modi-led government.

Their attempts to create a suspicion in the minds of the public about Modi's integrity had fallen flat a year ago, when the apex court had given a clean chit to the government. The court had made some very strong observations over the thought process of the petitioners, but that did not have any sobering effect on them. By filing a review petition they wanted to keep the issue alive for some more time and had hoped that the court might review its original order and direct an investigation. Such a direction would have given them ammunition to target Modi and the Central government. But that was not to be.

File image of a Rafale fighter jet. Wikimedia Commons

File image of a Rafale fighter jet. Wikimedia Commons

While rejecting the review petitions, a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices SK Kaul and KM Joseph said, "We find the review petitions are without any merit." In December last year, court had ruled that it didn’t consider it “appropriate to embark on a roving and fishing inquiry”.

The Supreme Court's verdict on Wednesday, and the original judgment in December 2018, should lead Rahul to ponder over whether he made a mistake by coining the slogan 'chowkidar chor hai.' Incidentally, the former Congress president is presently abroad on a "meditation" tour.

Meanwhile, responding to a contempt plea by BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi, the Supreme Court let off Rahul after accepting his "unconditional apology" in the matter. The Congress leader had incorrectly attributed the 'chowkidar chor hai' slogan to the Supreme Court. The apex court on Thursday, however, warned him to more careful in future.

Hours after the verdict, Rahul remarked:

The Congress appears to be completely unmindful of the fact that the Supreme Court has emphatically rejected its charges, and not many people appear to be buying into its campaign either. Party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala repeated the charges that Rahul had made in earlier election campaigns, and sought the setting up of a Joint Parliamentary Committee.

The Supreme Court’s remarks on the pricing of the Rafale aircraft were important: “Insofar as the aspect of pricing is concerned, the Court satisfied itself with the material made available. It is not the function of this Court to determine the prices nor for that matter can such aspects be dealt with on mere suspicion of persons who decide to approach the Court. The internal mechanism of such pricing would take care of the situation. On the perusal of documents, we had found that one cannot compare apples and oranges. Thus, the pricing of the basic aircraft had to be compared which was competitively marginally lower. As to what should be loaded on the aircraft or not and what further pricing should be added has to be left to the best judgment of the competent authorities.”

Rahul has claimed in the past that the UPA's deal (which never materialised in its tenure) would have been cheaper than the NDA deal. The Supreme Court’s statement effectively counters this claim, by pointing out that apples and oranges cannot be compared — merely an aircraft cannot be compared to one that is fully loaded. The Court also said “much cannot be made out” of the charges made against Anil Ambani’s Group being one of the offset supplier: ……"as the decision of whom to engage as the offset partner was a matter left to the suppliers and we do not think that much can be made out of it……..the review petitions are without any merit and are accordingly dismissed, once again, re-emphasising that our original decision was based within the contours of Article 32 of the Constitution of India.” Immediately after the verdict, defence minister Rajnath Singh said:

It may be worth recalling that Singh had flown to France to receive the first batch of the Rafale jets. Since he had received them on the day of Vijayadashami, he had performed a 'Shastra pooja' and written "Om" on a fighter jet. While the ritual was in accordance with Indian traditions, a section of Congress leaders and some left-liberals took great exception to the act.

On Thursday, after the Supreme Court's verdict, BJP president and home minister Amit Shah blasted the Congress and Rahul Gandhi, albeit without naming the latter.

In the near future, it is possible that the Congress may yet against stall Parliament proceedings over flimsy charges on the Rafale deal. However, in the past, other Opposition parties had not supported the party's demand for a JPC probe into the matter. It had stood virtually isolated then, and the situation may be well be the same in the upcoming session of Parliament. It is time for the party to dispassionately rethink its strategy.

November 14, 2019 at 06:36PM

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