Both the houses of Parliament witnessed a showdown between the NDA government and the opposition Congress as they debated alleged graft in the purchase of AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters, in which the ruling BJP has directly targeted the Gandhi family.
The Congress party is risking political isolation as opposition parties and the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government attacked the party on the issue and demanded investigation. The Congress, on its part, has responded with equal aggression to rebut the charges levelled against it during the debates.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi called the BJP “an insecure ruling party” trying to foist corruption charges on “persons unconnected” to the scam. There are many “APs” in India including the Gujarat Chief Minister, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said as he refuted in Parliament allegations against his party in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. AgustaWestland is alleged to have paid Rs. 375 crore as bribe to secure the Rs. 3,700-crore contract to supply 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force. The previous UPA government scrapped the deal in 2014 over charges of kickbacks to Indian agents.
The AgustaWestland issue also came up in Lok Sabha with the BJP demanding a probe to find out who received kickbacks in the deal for the 12 VVIP helicopters. The saga began with the controversial Member of Parliament (MP) Subramanian Swamy’s nomination to the Rajya Sabha a week ago surprised many, including members of the BJP and the NDA. Swamy’s comments in the house were expunged twice in the last one week and caused some heartburn among senior leaders.
The initials “AP” listed in Italian court documents among those who allegedly took bribes to help Agusta win the contract for the supply of a dozen VVIP choppers to India has been widely speculated to represent Ahmed Patel, a close aide of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Singhvi referred to quotes attributed by news reports to Guido Haschke, a middleman hired by Agusta allegedly to pay kickbacks to Indian decision-makers. Despite stiff opposition from the Congress, Manohar Parrikar told the Rajya Sabha that he only wanted to give chronology of the events with regard to corruption in the Rs. 3,600-crore sale of 12 VVIP choppers to India. Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Kirit Somaiya claimed that two of the accused in the alleged scam — Gautam Khaitan and Guido Haschke — were also “involved” in other companies and as per a SEBI report, incorporated as directors in real estate company Emaar-MGF.
JDU leader Sharad Yadav attacks BJP over chopper scam. He asked BJP why are they not doing anything constructive by taking action against Congress but just indulging in lectures. Sharad Yadav said all the controversy of scam controversy is based on a court in Italy, BJP have no CBI, ED over there. What are they fretting about?
Meanwhile, the CBI has started third day of questioning to former Air Force chief S.P. Tyagi at it’s headquarter at CGO complex in connection with alleged irregularities in the Rs. 3600 crore VVIP chopper deal. The investigating agency had earlier quizzed former IAF deputy chief JS Gujral in connection with this case. Both Tyagi and Gujral were questioned at length in 2013, but the fresh round of questioning was necessitated after recent order of an Italian Court which indicated corruption in the deal.
Despite requests, the Congress-led government shared just three documents with Italy as it investigated how bribes were paid in India for an order of Rs. 3,600 crores for a dozen helicopters. Marco Maria Maiga, the judge who handled AgustaWestland Scam case told Indian government that they were hoping some papers to be sent to them by Indian government but only three papers were sent by India, case in Milan against defense manufacturer Finmecannica, adding that India shared information that Italy had already collected. His remark will facilitate an amplified attack by the ruling BJP, which has said the Congress tried to cover up a corrupt deal which involved its top leaders, some of whom, including Chief Sonia Gandhi, are named in notes swapped by middlemen and executives as they strategized to pay off Indians. Sonia Gandhi’s top aide, Ahmed Patel, has said the entry of “AP” in those notes cannot be inferred as a damning reference to him, as alleged by the BJP. The judge confirmed that he found evidence that Finmecannica had bribed then Air Force Chief SP Tyagi, who has been interrogated by the CBI in Delhi this week and has denied any wrongdoing. The Congress has aggressively argued in Parliament that the mention in documents of its leaders who were then in powerful positions cannot be interpreted in any way as hinting of collusion. The BJP says that the fact that the Italian judge considered those notes while reaching his decision is a powerful indication of their merit. Entire debate has halted in Parliament as it’s become Gandhi vs government battle. So, here after no action, no inquiry but allegations and attacks on each others.
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