In what may serve as a major political flashpoint before the upcoming polls, the Budget session of Parliament that begins on Thursday may also see the CAG's Rafale report being tabled.
As per sources, the report is in its final stages. A version of the report containing the pricing details will be submitted to the Ministry of Defence which has answered queries by the government's auditor. Another version of the report where the pricing details are redacted will be submitted to Parliament and made public, though even that report is expected to weigh in on the pricing in some way.
The report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India has been mentioned earlier in the Supreme Court's verdict rejecting a plea that sought a probe into the intergovernmental deal between India and France for the purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft. At that time, the reference was to do with the price being paid by India for the Rafale fighter jet. The Supreme Court had said that the report had been examined by the Public Accounts Committee and a redacted portion of the report had been tabled in Parliament.
At this, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who has been attacking the government ceaselessly by alleging crony capitalism in the deal, held a press briefing alongside Mallikarjun Kharge - the head of the Public Accounts Committee - who said that no such report had been submitted.
"Govt lied in SC that the CAG report was presented in the house and in PAC and PAC has probed it. Govt said in SC it is in public domain. Where is it? Have you seen it? I am going to take this up with other members of PAC. We will summon AG and CAG", Kharge had said.
The government's response was to say that this aspect of the Supreme Court's order required correction as it was factually incorrect and the CAG report hadn't yet been tabled..
In its order, the Supreme Court had essentially given the Rafale deal a clean chit on the decision-making process. However, Rahul Gandhi has kept up his attack regarding the pricing and choice of offset partner, this despite Raksha Mantri Nirmala Sitharaman answering copiously regarding the deal in Parliament and also to Republic TV's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami in an exclusive primetime interview. The Congress has been demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) be formed to look into the deal, though the government has rejected this on account of the Supreme Court having already given its verdict. Keeping this in mind, the tabling of the CAG report could be politically critical.
Catch Budget 2019 Live and Piyush Goel’s interim budget speech. Check this space for all the latest news, live updates and headlines from Union Budget 2019. Republic World brings to you the latest developments across all sectors of Union Budget 2019.