The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India’s assertion that the Narendra Modi government’s Rafale deal was 2.86 per cent cheaper than the one of the UPA government comes close on the heels of the note of dissent of the Indian Negotiating Team (INT) of the Ministry of Defence in the matter coming to light. The INT had said that the 2015 deal was 55 per cent more expensive than the 2007 per cent deal. So, if the INT team’s observations, dated June 1, 2016, are correct, the CAG report cannot be right and vice versa.
What complicates the matter further is that the 2015 government to government agreement comes for a reduced number of 36 aircraft sans any licence production, transfer of technology, bank guarantee or sovereign guarantee. While it is now clear that there were procedural lapses and the deal was not discussed and deliberated upon by the Defence Procurement Committee, Cabinet Committee on Security and that even the Defence Minister was not in the know of the same, the fact that the present Comptroller and Auditor General Rajiv Mehrishi was, in the capacity of then Finance Secretary, involved in the Rafale deal and the negotiations, certainly does not inspire much confidence in the integrity of the CAG report. This is the exact case of a person investigating an alleged wrongdoing in which he himself played a part.
Such fears are not unfounded or outlandish. The Modi Sarkar has brazenly destroyed the integrity of one institution of the nation after another. A government which did not think twice to wreck the credibility of the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Central Vigilance Commission just to save its own skin can go to any length. We have also seen four Supreme Court judges holding a press conference, alleging wrongdoings in the judiciary. The RBI has been bypassed while the Prime Minister took the disastrous decision to demonetise the economy.
We have seen BJP MPs and MLAs proclaiming with pride that the Election Commission of India is in their pockets. In this light, the onus is on the CAG to clarify whether it took into account the INT’s note of dissent while preparing the report. If it did, what was wrong with the INT’s observations? If it did not, the CAG report does not hold much water. If Vinod Rai-led CAG’s auditing adventurism in the run-up to the last general election is to be taken as a benchmark when notional losses in 2G spectrum sale and coal block allocations were given concrete figures, then this CAG report falls woefully short. The question is whether CAG is the latest institution to be breached by a government which wants to cling on to power at any cost. The question won’t have an answer now. It will come only if there is a change in government after the coming election.