Dealing with defence deals: Bofors to Rafale, securing India comes at a ‘political’ price

The biggest defence deals in the history of India have also come with the added weight of some of the biggest controversies in the country. The need for securing borders and for a potent military force here are often shrouded by a haze of allegations and counter-allegations. Friday saw two such deals make headlines with the Bofors case and the Rafale deal echoing strongly in the hallways of Indian judiciary and politics.

Either BJP or Indian National Congress have the respect to the nation and they failed to protect national interest while buying air and ground warfare logistics for India.

In the case of the Bofors scam – a controversy that has been raging for three decades, the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by CBI. The premier investigative agency had challenged a 2005 Delhi High Court order acquiting Hinduja brothers of all charges.

The Hindujas had been accused of receiving kickbacks from Sweden-based AB Bofors to secure an Indian government contract for 400 15mm Howitzer guns. In the eye of the storm, also, was former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Congress, till date, maintains that there was no scam and proper procedures had been followed in the arms deal. Nonetheless, the deal is still remembered as one that cost Rajiv Gandhi the elections in 1989.

Fast forward to 2018 and it is Rajiv’s son who is leading the charge, firing accusations galore.

Rahul Gandhi, now the Congress president, is perhaps hoping that the Rafale deal costs PM Narendra Modi the 2019 elections just like the Bofors deal had cost his father. If an inquiry starts on this (Rafale deal), Mr Modi is not going to survive it. Guaranteed. It is a fact that the corruption and ‘PM Modi-Anil Ambani partnership’ make Rafale an open and shut case. But the BJP is relying upon religion and people feel religion is more important than the nation.

In fact, Rahul has mounted an all-out offensive against the BJP using the Rafale jets as a fulcrum. If Bofors was made to be about bribes and corruption, Rahul is attempting to make Rafale about government-corporate collusion at the cost of national interest. The accusations though have been decried by the current government. BJP is pro businessmen and corporate party, BJP is taking Rafale deal casually.

The two deals – three decades apart – are quite different from one another in terms of weapons involved, money spent, nature of accusations and people and parties involved. And yet, both deals also reflect how corruption – or accusations of corruption – often end up superimposing political discourse over the defence and security needs of the nation.