Rafale Lies: An interview with Nirmala Sitharaman
If our mainstream media had a spine, here are some questions it would have asked the Defence Minister over the numerous suspicious decisions in the Rafale Deal, and evasive excuses to justify them.
Our resident expert on Defence interviews Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Rafale Scam. Although this is an IMAGINARY interview, had Ms Nirmala Sitharaman given a real interview to us, her answers probably wouldn’t be very different than what you’ll read below. This is our attempt to make a highly technical issue – the Rafale Scam – more accessible to people at large. We have tried to cover almost all arguments and counter arguments about Rafale Scam in public domain, and thus this is most thorough discussion about Rafale Scam you will find anywhere, but if you feel we have missed any aspect, do let us know in the comments section.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, this Rafale Deal looks like a Scam.  Why is India purchasing just 36 Rafale jets at the cost of 126?
Nirmala Sitharaman: It’s not a Scam. Congress is Shameless.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, Please, Don’t politicise matters of National Security. When Saaf Baat had written an article on Rafale Scam 1 year back, BJP Camp was asking Saaf Baat, “if there is a scam, why isn’t Congress raising it?”. Now that congress is raising questions, you’re calling them shameless? Let’s just talk facts.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Congress is shameless. It’s a Fact. I can’t discuss the Rafale deal without blaming Congress. Period.
Saaf Baat: OK, You say Congress is Shameless because it’s asking questions on Rafale Scam. What would you say about Arvind Kejriwal, who is mute on Rafale Scam?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I hate whataboutery. This is all shameless Congress’s fault. Congress wasted 12 years to purchase Jets needed by IAF, so we had to act urgently. So PM Modi purchased 36 jets in emergency.
Saaf Baat: But wasn’t it NDA Government whom IAF requested MMRCAs (Jets) in 2001? What did you do until 2004? There was no urgency then? UPA started working on it in 2005, floated Request For Proposals (RFP) in 2007, IAF tested all competing aircrafts for 4 years, Rafale was announced L1 bidder in December 2012, negotiations for 50% offset were going on and Dassault said 95% issues have been agreed upon and they’re looking forward to working with HAL. Everything was on track until after 2 weeks of Rafale’s announcement PM Modi scrapped the deal. If anyone wasted time, it was NDA, no?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I said it was Congress’s fault. Congress is shameless. Matter over.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am you are not making any sense. OK, tell me, Why did PM Modi cancel the old deal which was on the verge of conclusion? You’re saying PM Modi did all this because of the ‘urgent’ need to get 36 Jets?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Yes. The situation was very urgent. It was emergency.
Saaf Baat: But If there was indeed an ’emergency’, why did then defence minister Mr Parrikar say “IAF can make do with Sukhoi-30s”? And we were already getting 18 (out of 126) jets in fly-away condition in original deal. If PM wanted 36 Jets ‘urgently’, he could have asked Dassault for 36 instead of 18 in fly-away condition – rest would be made in India by HAL as planned. Any fool can make such adjustments in ‘emergency’. If anything, we have wasted a few more years by renegotiating the whole deal. There must be some other reason PM Modi scrapped the original deal.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Yes, there was one more reason. PM Modi scrapped the original deal because Cost of the Original Deal had escalated from $10 Bn to $20 Bn.
Saaf Baat: That doesn’t seem right. Dassault CEO himself has clarified that they haven’t escalated the cost. In fact, it has been pointed out that these cost-escalation rumours may have been spread through corporate owned news papers and BJP IT Cell just to justify scrapping of original deal so that Dassault’s partners Ambani-Adani can earn windfall profits. If PM Modi can negotiate Price for new deal, he can negotiate price for old deal too. So instead of renegotiating the price, why did PM Modi cancel the original deal altogether? Cost escalation excuse is just a lie. Any other reason PM Modi may have scrapped the original deal for?
Nirmala Sitharaman: No no, Cost had escalated because labour in India is costlier than labour in France. Dassault said It would be cheaper to purchase jets in fly-away condition from France.
Saaf Baat: Really, Ma’am? Labor in India is costlier? And if that was the case, PM Modi should have purchased all 126 Jets in fly-away condition from France at same or lower cost. If you claim cost would be high for Made in India Jets and then purchase 36 Jets at cost of 126, I call it a SCAM.
Nirmala Sitharaman: I was joking about cost escalation. Actually, Dassault didn’t want to work with HAL, They said HAL is incompetent and they prefer Reliance. It’s their choice. We have no role.
Saaf Baat: But Dassault CEO has already said that they had agreement on 95% issues with HAL and they would sign final deal in March 2015. Dassault had in fact signed a work-sharing contract with HAL in 2014. Dassault had no problem with HAL. And how could you accept ‘HAL is incompetent’ argument even if made? How could you cancel a deal on the verge of completion based on such flimsy unprofessional excuses? You cancelled original deal so Reliance got the offset contract and you’re saying you had no role? And then you blame Congress for wasting time?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Congress is Shameless. Original deal was Dead. So PM Modi made new emergency deal.
Saaf Baat: On 12th August 2014, then defence minister Jaitley said the negotiations on Rafale Deal were to proceed as planned. On March 25, 2015, just 2 weeks before PM Modi announced his new deal, Dassault CEO said they have finalized 95% details of production of 108 Jets with HAL. So Original deal wasn’t dead. PM Modi Killed it. Later on, then defence minister Mr Parrikar said it was PROBABLY a decision based on discussion between two governments. In fact, if the old deal was really dead and PM was starting a new, he should have invited new quotes from final chosen two contenders, Rafale and EuroJet, but did he?  So it was all PM Modi’s handiwork. Isn’t there any procedure to cancel or modify a deal?
Nirmala Sitharaman: PM Modi can do anything he wants. All procedures were followed by PM Modi.
Saaf Baat: Facts suggest PM Modi didn’t follow ANY Procedure, Ma’am. Even Dassault didn’t know about PM Modi’s new deal just two weeks before he announced it. So how did PM Modi followed all procedures and with whom did he negotiate the details of his new deal to buy just 36 Jets when Dassault itself didn’t know? Why did PM Modi scrap a deal which was 95% done and turned it over it’s head? Let me ask you this. Did PM Modi follow all procedures of defence procurement BEFORE cancelling the original deal and announcing the new deal in 2 week period?
Nirmala Sitharaman: No, PM Modi followed all procedures AFTER he announced the deal.
Saaf Baat: Wait, so you’re saying PM Modi announced the deal first, and then followed the procedure? The procedure becomes irrelevant then, no? It seems these ‘urgency’, ‘cost escalation’, ‘HAL’s alleged incompetence’, ‘costly labour’ etc are just excuses to cancel the original deal so that Reliance and Adani can come into picture, no?
Nirmala Sitharaman: You’re forgetting the most important part. Congress is shameless.
Saaf Baat: Focus on Rafale deal Ma’am, not on Congress. So we don’t yet know actual reasons why PM Modi canceled the original deal (other than to benefit his cronies), but with cancellation we lost Technology Transfer too, right?
Nirmala Sitharaman: There’s no ‘economic sense’ in ToT in such a small deal.
Saaf Baat: But Ma’am, PM Modi’s new deal (60,000 Cr) is bigger (less ‘economic’) than the original deal (54,000 Cr). Dassault was ready for ToT in smaller original deal too.
Nirmala Sitharaman: But we are purchasing just 36 Jets not 126, so it’s a small deal. We made the big deal small. Besides, we are addressing ToT in a HOLISTIC manner.
Saaf Baat: Holy-Stick? Something to do with Cow? You are scaring me, Ma’am.
Nirmala Sitharaman: See, after my Press Conference, our BJP Ideologue Tuhin Sinha told me that out of the 50% offset (30,000 Cr), 30% (9000 Cr) will be allotted for ToT to DRDO. We will get 20 critical technologies via ToT.
Saaf Baat: Where did Tuhin get this info from?
Nirmala Sitharaman: He read it on ‘Lion of India: PM Modi’ Facebook page. Amit Malpuva maintains that Page.
Saaf Baat: But ma’am, you are Minister of Defence. And you are defending rafale scam based on what Tuhin read on a Facebook page? This Tuhin said in a TV Show that IAF will give cost break-up of the rafale deal. He doesn’t even know that IAF has no role in financial aspects of the transaction. You think he’s defence expert?
Nirmala Sitharaman: We in BJP are expert on Everything. No one can question us. We are always right. PM Modi is our inspiration.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, I have heard that PM Modi takes inspiration from a Donkey. It’s better if we just focus on Rafale deal. So why are we purchasing 36 jets at the cost of 126 Jets?
Nirmala Sitharaman: See that’s a big misunderstanding. We are purchasing Jets at Far Far cheaper cost than UPA Deal. Actual deal is bigger because we are purchasing ‘many other things’, not only Jets.
Saaf Baat: But IAF needs Jets, not ‘many other things’, right? Why don’t we just purchase Jets from the money meant for Jets? What are ‘many other things’ anyways?
Nirmala Sitharaman: We are spending $2 Bn for customising Rafale for Indian requirements, including Israeli HMDS and Meteor BVR + SCALP Missiles. Further, We are also getting 2 simulators, 5 years maintenance, Tools, Spare Parts, we are upgrading 2 Air base for Rafale and ‘many other things’.
Saaf Baat: But weren’t Rafale chosen by IAF because they were best for India’s requirements? Then why spend a fortune to customize? To inflate the Bill? And HMDS costs mere $0.4 Mn per unit, Meteor BVR Missiles are $2.1 Mn a piece, you are saying we are paying $50 Mn extra per rafale for customisations which aren’t even worth $5 Mn? A simulator costs just $1.5 Mn, Original RFP had provision for 20 year maintenance, can’t we upgrade air-bases ourselves? We already have 45 squadrons, do they not have air bases? Are we paying 3 times the cost of Rafale for these ‘many other things’?
Nirmala Sitharaman: You are underestimating ‘many other things’. ‘Many other things’ are very important.
Saaf Baat: OK, did IAF ask you to get these ‘many other things’ or was this PM Modi’s decision? More importantly, why is PM Modi stealing money worth 90 Rafale Jets – by reducing the number of jets from 126 to mere 36? So that he can buy weapons & auxiliaries at far inflated rates from that money? PM should have increasing number of Jets from 126 to 198 – what IAF needs right now.
Nirmala Sitharaman: PM Modi thinks IAF needs ‘many other things’ more than Jets. That’s why we’re spending double money on ‘many other things’ than on Jets.
Saaf Baat: But Ma’am, you said just 2 minutes ago that buying Jets was ‘urgent’. Is this Rafale Deal or ‘many other things’ deal? Anyways, Do another deal to purchase weapons for IAF, Do as many deals you need to buy ‘many other things’ for IAF, but don’t steal money meant for Jets. You give ₹5+ Lakh Crore tax exemptions to Corporate every year, Waive off ₹2 Lakh Cr in NPAs for the Rich, remonetize Banks with ₹2 Lakh Cr but you don’t have money for Weapons or OROP? And you call yourselves nationalist?
Nirmala Sitharaman: That you’ll have to ask to PM Modi.
Saaf Baat: Sure, How do I ask questions to PM Modi? He doesn’t speak on ANY issue of national importance. Doesn’t even do any press conference. He only talks Shamshaan-Kabrastan type things.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Yeah. Congress is Shameless.
Saaf Baat: Arre Ma’am, where does congress come into picture? You are paying 3 times the cost of a 100 KG sack of potatoes because the shopkeeper is giving you 25 gram Adrak-Lahsun-Dhaniya. I’m confused. Is this Stupidity or a Scam!
Nirmala Sitharaman: But Qatar and Egypt also purchased Rafale, and they are getting them at much higher cost.
Saaf Baat: Are Qatar and Egypt also not getting ‘many other things’?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I don’t know what Qatar and Egypt are getting.
Saaf Baat: Then why are you comparing our deal with Qatar and Egypt? Should we not compare our new deal with our original deal?
Nirmala Sitharaman: That’s what I’m telling you. We’re getting ‘many other things’ which were not in the original deal.
Saaf Baat: Oh My God. OK, I’ll bite. Just give me complete list of this ‘many other things’ with their costs. Also, How did PM Modi decide which ‘many other things’ he wants to purchase and at what cost? Who negotiated the current deal? Give me total facts.
Nirmala Sitharaman: I said we are getting ‘many other things’, End of discussion. Next question.
Saaf Baat: But I still don’t understand why PM Modi is purchasing just 36 Jets at the cost of 126 (7 squadrons) when IAF ‘urgently’ requires 11 squadrons?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Take whatever you get, don’t be greedy. 36 is better than 0. We’re giving you 36, take it.
Saaf Baat: So now PM Modi will make 5 more new small deals such as this one and pay 3,00,000 Cr for fulfilling IAF’s need for 11 squadrons? According to Ex-CAG Vinod Rai’s “Presumptive Loss Theory”, this would be a scam worth 2.25 Lakh Crores. Biggest ever scam in India.
Nirmala Sitharaman: But that’s why Vinod Rai isn’t CAG now, is he? He is happy wherever he is.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, It’s a Fact that Dassault was going to invest 50% offset with HAL, but now offset is going to Reliance and we are purchasing overpriced HMDS from Adani’s partner Elbit. PM Modi didn’t only change the deal but Even Rules for foreign investment in defence so that Reliance & Adani can partner with Dassault & Elbit respectively. Just 2 weeks after these partnerships, PM Modi announced new deal in Paris in Mr Ambani’s presence. We are giving money meant for 90 Jets + Technology & Infrastructure for HAL to cronies by purchasing ‘many other things’ as an excuse. It’s all about giving the cronies their cut. Masterstroke. This is a Scam. Not rocket science.
Nirmala Sitharaman: Are we still talking about Rafale deal? Congress’s allegations about rocket deal are shameless. We have not signed any offset agreement with Reliance or Adani for Rafale or Rocket deal.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, No one said you have signed any offset contract with Reliance or Adani. Offset contracts are to be signed by Dassault not GoI, so of course you haven’t signed any offset contracts. You’re misleading us. I’m asking you “what did you eat in the morning” and you answer “my daughter doesn’t like Gobhi Ka Paratha”. Do you even understand the questions ma’am?
Nirmala Sitharaman: My daughter likes Gobhi Ka Paratha. Don’t mislead the nation. Stop using the word scam. IAF Chief says this is a good deal.
Saaf Baat: Why did IAF Chief jump to defend Ambani’s deal? Did you order him to? I anyways did not expect him to say, “Dear IAF pilots, you all will have to fly ‘crap flying coffins’, and have to put your lives at risk to help enrich Ambani bhai”. Just tell me, Did the then Army Chief say Bofors was a Scam? Ex IAF Chief Tyagi says he is innocent. Should we believe him? Ma’am, I use my brain and facts of the matter prove to me rafale deal is a scam.
Nirmala Sitharaman: It’s not a scam if Army Chief says it’s a good deal.
Saaf Baat: Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Fali Homi Major & Air Chief Marshal (Retd) Pradeep Naik have raised doubts about BJP’s Rafale narrative. Should we not take them seriously? Personally, It doesn’t matter to me what any IAF Chief says. On the contrary, I will urge you to investigate ANY IAF Chief who is defending ANY SCAM, not just Rafale Scam. It’s not IAF Chief’s job to defend shady business transactions of Ambani-Adani. As IAF has no role in financial transactions between Governments of India and France, the very fact that IAF chief chose to speak tells me something is fishy.
Nirmala Sitharaman: YOU CAN’T QUESTION ARMY. Don’t drag our forces into politics.
Saaf Baat: Maybe that’s why IAF Chief came to defend Ambani’s shady deal. Because no one can question Army. And who politicises Army operations? Who dragged IAF Chief into Rafale mess?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Everything I’m telling you is in newspapers like Times of India which has recently reported that we saved 12,600 Cr on Rafale Deal.
Saaf Baat: So we should trust newspapers like ToI which doesn’t even say whose 12,600 Cr you saved, India’s or Ambani’s? We should ignore facts & trust newspapers?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Trust OUR Newspapers, Facebook Pages and News sites. You need to study the Rafale deal.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, we need facts and figures, not propaganda. With due respect, I’ve shown you that I know more about Rafale Scam than you do, but I’m open to more research. Tell me, where can I find Government Certified info on Rafale Deal? Or do you want me to read the propaganda on OpIndia type fake news sites?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I’ll give you all the documents (Asks Secretary of Defence to give documents, who says he doesn’t have documents).
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, did you just try to fool me? You asked Secretary of Defence to give me documents, so I would think you want to give me documents. But you will never give me documents and forget about it when the interview is over, right?
Nirmala Sitharaman: I will give you documents later.
Saaf Baat: When?
Nirmala Sitharaman: When achchhe din comes, in 2022.
Saaf Baat: So you’ll not give me actual documents related to Rafale Scam?
Nirmala Sitharaman: If Rafale is a Scam, why aren’t you filing a PIL in court?
Saaf Baat: Ma’am. PM Modi talks about Scams of Congress 24×7 since many years. How many PILs has he filed? And why the hell isn’t he putting all the corrupts behind the bars?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Technical Reasons.
Saaf Baat: But Ma’am, If PM Modi is indeed an honest person or even an intelligent one, why isn’t he just scrapping this scam of a deal and buying our IAF 126 or more Jets? We will purchase the ‘many other things’ when IAF asks us to. No?
Nirmala Sitharaman: Ek baar PM Modi kuch bol dete hai to fir vo apane aap ki bhi nahi sunte.
Saaf Baat: Ma’am, this Rafale deal is a SCAM. Period.
Nirmala Sitharaman: You are anti-national. Period. What about Padmawati? Period. What about Triple Talaq? Period. What about Love Jihad? Period. What about Malda…
Saaf Baat: You may stop there. Thank you Ma’am for giving me time but not answers. It’s a consolation that in your press conference you spoke even less matter of substance. You at least gave me certificate of being anti-national and I assure you, I’ll remember this until I die.
Nirmala Sitharaman: You’re welcome kid. No problem about time, I was anyways campaigning in Gujarat and it was boring. People there are very hostile. They were asking questions about Vikas. You’re at least asking questions about something else. But Stop questioning Modi ji. Drink Gaumutra everyday to kill the questioning worm in your brain. Have faith. Without faith man is animal.
Disclaimer by Author (@RafaleScam): I have been trying to explain Rafale Scam to people on Social Media in simple language but the discussions always digress into personal attacks because the country is so much polarised into Pro-Modi and Anti-Modi camps, it is almost impossible to have a meaningful discussion. Thus I imagined a light-hearted discussion between doubters and supporters of Rafale Deal, and puts forward arguments of both sides as they exist on Social Media in the form of myself interviewing Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. THIS IS NOT REAL INTERVIEW. It’s fiction. But all the discussions on twitter about Rafale scam, however brief, invariably resemble this interview before they digress into abuse and name-calling. So here it is. You are welcome to counter the facts related to Rafale deal if you have any government certified ones.