Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony is by and large an easy person to get on with. That is why he is liked by colleagues. That is why although he is financially squeaky clean himself he has allowed questionable events to occur in his ministry. The Rafale deal was one such transaction which Mr. Antony viewed with tranquility. The most powerful nexus between India’s big business and big politics was favouring the deal. Mr. Antony’s unswerving loyalty to the country’s biggest politics is proverbial. But then unexpectedly strange things started to happen.
Just four days before the government invited Rafale to clinch the deal an opposition leader forwarded a note by experts on the deal to point out why the contract should not be awarded either to Rafale or to Typhoon. It is fair to surmise that a rival bidder of both these aircraft would have inspired the note by providing the technical details included in it. Among the objections raised in the note was the allegation about cartelization involved in the deal. According to the note the four-nation firm EADS owns shares in companies that manufacture both the Rafale and Typhoon aircrafts. After the note reached the Finance Ministry the government thought it prudent to order an internal assessment.
Subsequently the Defence Ministry surprised observers by a sudden decision to announce its invitation to the Rafale. The Defence Ministry’s alacrity must have pleased the biggest-business-biggest-politics nexus favouring the deal. Mr. Antony was performing as expected. But then erupted fierce criticism and insinuations by British politicians and British media miffed that the Typhoon had lost out. Alongside there arose objections by members of the negotiating committee criticizing the manner in which the contract had been awarded to Rafale. Apparently a sense of danger overtook Mr. Antony. If another scandal like Bofors was to be repeated would the Defence Minister become the fall guy? Mr. Antony ordered a departmental inquiry into the deal. All that happened in the past. What eventually happens to the deal and to Mr. Antony’s own spotless reputation belongs to the future.
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