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Airbus benefits as ministers slug it out
Swati Chaturvedi

New Delhi, September 5
The Indian Airlines’ deal with Airbus Industries to purchase 42 aircraft worth Rs 9,500 crore will be signed tomorrow after a four-month delay and almost “no concessions’’ due to the UPA’s internal rivalries.

With ministers slugging it out Airbus is all set to make hay while the Sun shines

While, Mr Praful Patel, of the NCP maintains that he is “the government’s Aviation Minister and there is no politics in the process’’, critics point to the fact that several Congress leaders claimed that the purchase price was too high and could be brought down.

Mr Patel says “the earlier negotiations were aggressive and we managed a reasonable price.”

He also points out that earlier Expenditure Secretary D.S. Swaroop was part of the negotiating committee and so was the Additional Secretary and Finance adviser — Finance ministry nominee — so the complaints were unfair.

Mr Patel in an endeavour to stop unsavoury speculation refused to even meet the empowered committee negotiating with Airbus lest he be accused of influencing the decision

As part of the agreement, Airbus has earlier brought down the price by $ 63
million and agreed to a built in lack of escalation of 4 percent.

Aviation ministry officials say Finance Minister P. Chidambaram was being unfair when he said at a Cabinet meeting that the price was too high and should be re-negotiated. “The Finance Ministry was part of the entire process. Once it is completed how can they protest and resort to name calling.’’ says an aggrieved official.

While, the politics of the deal threatens to over-shadow negotiations, the delay is costing IA dear.

Mr Patel at a meeting of the Consultative Committee which also said that the price was too high is learnt to have said “All of you refuse to fly the 25-year-old Alliance Air aircraft yet complain. I am not here to preside over the demise of the national carrier.’’

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finally had to step in and sort out the slug-fest after Airbus went public with allegations after Air India opted for Boeing.

The last time IA purchased aircraft was in the early 80’s and a CBI inquiry is still being conducted into that deal.

The correspondent, who is an anchor with SAB TV, regularly writes for The Tribune.


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