NEW DELHI -- Activist-advocate Prashant Bhushan and former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of compromising national security and flouting rules of procuring defence aircraft due to his controversial decision to buy 36 Rafale aircraft instead of the planned 126 in a "fly-away" condition from France in April 2015.
The trio made these allegations in a written statement issued at a press conference relating to the controversial Rafale deal. The fourteen-page statement, titled Prime Minister Modi's personal culpability in the Rafale scam, says, "National security has been compromised by the Prime Minister and every rule of procurement flouted to unilaterally reduce the number of planes from 126 to 36 and remove Make in India under Transfer of Technology by HAL, despite the fact that IAF, DAC, & MoD had come to a reasoned conclusion that 126 aircrafts were required under Make in India for the long term needs & security of the country."
Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie had held their first press conference on the matter on 8 August. They had alleged then, again in a written statement, that, "Mandatory due process as laid down in the Defence Procurement Procedure was shockingly bypassed in a totally arbitrary and illegal manner. Discounting IAF's opinions and requirements, Mr. Modi kept the IAF, the Defence Ministry, and the External Affairs Ministry in the dark about the new deal until the very last moment. He unilaterally cancelled the well thought out original deal that was the product of thousands of man-hours of Services personnel in accordance with the Defence Procurement Procedure and unilaterally announced a totally new deal for 36 planes that compromises India's national security bypassing all provisions meant to prevent corrupt politicians, businessmen, and babus from disregarding IAF's requirements and specifications."
Responding to the claims, Union minister Arun Jaitley wrote in a blog post the same day, "those raising alarm about the alleged danger to national security ought to realise their responsibility and refrain from politicising for narrow individual ends those very matters pertaining to defence of the nation that were consistently ignored by them and by those with whom they sympathise".
The Congress has also been repeatedly making allegations about the deal, which continues to be a significant political controversy. Air Marshal SB Deo, the Vice Chief of Air Staff, said last week that critics of the deal must understand the laid-down norms and procurement procedures. On its part, Reliance Group has repeatedly maintained that the government had no role in the company being chosen as the joint venture partner of Dassault Aviation, the French company that manufactures the Rafale fighter aircraft.
On Tuesday, responding to the official reactions to its claims, Bhushan, Sinha and Shourie said, "The responses of Reliance, Mr. Jaitley and the government at large, cumulatively show that award of offsets to Reliance-Dassault JV is a commission for the services that Mr. Ambani provides to Mr. Modi... The suggestion that Reliance was brought in without the approval of Government of India is false. Government's attempts to shoot from the shoulders of men in uniform by stating that the deal was made on account of urgency is contrary to facts & makes a mockery of the elaborate Defence Procurement Procedure."