The Supreme Court’s verdict in the Rafale deal has come as a shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government that faced a perception battle on the issue. The outright rejection of all four sets of petitions filed by Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Prashant Bhushan and AAP MP Sanjay Singh should be a big relief for the ruling NDA. On three key issues – the decision-making process, pricing and offsets policy – the three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi found no wrongdoing for having shown any favouritism. This should be a big slap for Congress strategists that trumped up the Rafale deal to attack the government. Congress president Rahul Gandhi may have to eat humble pie after the apex court bench felt there was no case for a court monitored probe into the deal – even as the opposition demanded a JPC probe into the issue in Parliament on Friday.
The charges of corruption leveled against Modi government reached a crescendo in recent weeks against the backdrop of elections in the key states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. On every charge that the petitioners raised, the Supreme Court set aside the pleas leaving no scope for further appeal. For instance, the court categorically stated, “…there’s no occasion to doubt the decision making process” to acquire 36 fighter aircraft from Dassualt Aviation. Importantly, the court kept itself out of the ‘defence procurement deals’ citing external security issues and sensitivity quotient.
There is little doubt that the court verdict will come in handy for the BJP leadership as it seeks a second term in office. The Congress put up a brave front contending the Supreme Court was not the “right forum” to dissect complex defence deals but that did not prevent the expected sharp attacks from the ruling party with BJP president Amit Shah and finance minister Arun Jaitley leading them. The demand for a JPC probe reflects the opposition resolve to ramp up the campaign against Modi. It is obvious that opposition parties would take advantage of government’s limitations not to disclose the finer specific details of the deal. Also, it seems that the Congress would continue to target both the BJP and Modi after losing out in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls due to the reported telecom and coal scams during ten years of UPA. From now on, the political seesaw battle would, in all likelihood, continue with charges and counter-charges heaped by both BJP and Congress. Meanwhile, the Congress should be credited for successfully making the Rafale deal a campaign issue.