Congress accuses Narendra Modi government of ‘favouritism’ in small arms deal with Adani Group

NEW DELHI: The Congress on Thursday accused the Narendra Modi government of indulging in “blatant favouristism” and giving the Adani group “undue advantage” in major small arms contracts for the armed forces.

Posing a set of three questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of the party’s “Hum Adani ke Hain Kaun” series, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the party had asked the PM a series of questions on February 15 regarding the “handing over” of large chunks of the India-Israel defence partnership to his “close friend” Gautam Adani.

The Congress’ slew of allegations have continued weeks after Adani Group stocks had taken a beating on the bourses after US-based short seller Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share-price manipulation.

The Gautam Adani-led group has dismissed the charges as lies, saying it complies with all laws and disclosure requirements.

“While he (PM) gives his gyan to G20 Foreign Ministers, he cannot run away from HAHK (Hum Adanike Hain Kaun)-20,” Ramesh tweeted.

In his statement posted on Twitter, the Congress general secretary posed questions about the “PM’s role” in giving the Adani group “undue advantage” in major small arms contracts for the armed forces.

“In 2018, the Indian Army selected the CAR 816 close quarter battle (CQB) carbine manufactured by the UAE-based Caracal International to replace its ageing submachine guns. Albeit done under the same ‘fast track procedure’ that led to the procurement of 72,400 SIG SAUER 716 assault rifles, the order for 93,895 carbines was abruptly cancelled in September 2020,” Ramesh alleged.

On February 10, 2021, the army issued yet another Request for Information for an identical quantity of carbines to vendors including Adani Defence, he said.

“Given that our soldiers face an urgent requirement in eastern Ladakh following the Chinese incursions, are you prioritising your cronies over our soldiers in cancelling this contract and opening it to fresh bids? Are you not simply opening a path for another Adani monopoly, this time on the supply of carbines whose total requirement is projected at up to four lakh guns?” Ramesh alleged.

The Congress general secretary in-charge communications also said that on March 3, 2019, the PM inaugurated an Indo-Russian joint venture to manufacture AK-203 assault rifles at the OFB Korwa factory in Amethi (Uttar Pradesh) and announced that ‘Make in Amethi’ is a reality.

“It’s another matter that it took three more years to start production of AK-203s. Curiously, Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL), which is manufacturing 7 lakh AK-203 rifles, was excluded from a January 10, 2023 Ministry of Defence briefing on the CQB contract. You keep harping on the importance of Atmanirbharta (self-reliance) in defence, yet your government has excluded India’s largest indigenous small arms factory from bidding,” Ramesh alleged.

“Is it because you are once again helping your private sector friends displace public-sector ventures that are currently supplying weapons to the armed forces,” he asked.

Is the PM concerned that an existing factory producing small arms at scale will outbid his “close friends” and deny them yet another opportunity to profit from Indian taxpayers, the Congress leader asked.

Indian armed forces have long been equipped with Israeli small arms such as Tavor assault rifles and Galil sniper rifles, he pointed out.

“In March 2020, Israel Weapons Industries (IWI) secured an Indian Army contract to supply 16,479 Negev NG-7 light machine guns. In September 2020, Adani bought a majority stake in the Gwalior-based PLR systems that had a joint venture with IWI, which put Adani in a position to monopolise any follow-on orders for Negev machine guns,” Ramesh claimed.

“If for argument’s sake IRRPL is being excluded to help newer players, why is your close friend Adani being allowed to bid for the CQB contract? Is this not a blatant case of favouritism?” he said.

He also urged the prime minister to break his “silence” on the issue.

Source: Press Trust of India

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