New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets in fly-away condition under a new deal with France has come will severe criticism from a prominent member of his own party. After meeting French President Francois Hollande in Paris on Friday, Modi announced that Indian Air Force will get 36 Rafale jets which is apart from the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) agreement for 126 more planes.
But senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy termed the new Rafale fighter jet deal between India and France a case of arbitrariness. Swamy is yet to decide on what action to take over Modi government's decision to purchase 36 aircraft from France.
Swamy said, "I have not yet decided on whether to approach the court. I am waiting for papers on the new Rafael deal. It prima facie appears to be a case of arbitrariness." Swamy requested Modi not to go ahead with the Rafale deal, which was negotiated by the previous UPA government, and said the performance of the French jet "turned out to be worst of all the aircraft" in Libya and Egypt.
"There are two major issues with the Rafale aircraft deal which would embarrass the BJP government. The first is that Rafale is less fuel efficient aircraft and lacking in essential performance characteristic that no country in the world has agreed to buy these aircraft," Swamy said in a statement.
"If the Prime Minister for some other 'compulsion' decides to go ahead with the deal, I will have no option but to approach the court in PIL to get it set aside," he said.
Sources said that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley crafted the new arrangement between India and France during his brief spell as the defence minister earlier.
IAF selected the Rafael fighter under the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) deal after a close competition which also saw Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen in the race. While Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, Mikoyan MiG-35 and Saab JAS 39 Gripen were eliminated very early, Dassault Rafale edged out the Eurofighter Typhoon in the final negotiation.
At present the IAf has just 34 fighter squadrons against the ideal 45 squadrons required to take on the threat from both Pakistan and China simultaneously. The ageing MiG-21 and MiG-27 planes are being phased out which will see the IAF strength depleting by at least eight more squadrons.
Under the MMRCA terms, India is to get only 18 Rafale directly while the rest 108 fighters will be manufactured by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. But the final deal between India and France is stuck over who would be responsible for the manufacturers' guarantee on 108 jets which could be built HAL. India wants Rafale maker Dassault Aviation to take full responsibility which the latter has till now not agreed to.
(With additional information from PTI)