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‘Where are the proofs?’ This is character assassination, asks Sonia Gandhi on BJP allegation on AgustaWestland case

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Congress President Sonia Gandhi termed “baseless” the allegations linking her and party leaders to bribes in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. She said she was not “afraid” of being “cornered” on the issue. She claimed that all the allegations against her in the VVIP chopper deal are baseless and part of the BJP’s strategy of character assassination.

Sonia Gandhi-AV
“I am not afraid of anyone cornering me, as there is no basis to that. All the accusations they are throwing at us are false,” Ms. Gandhi told reporters in the Parliament complex, as the BJP sought to target her on the deal.

“Where are the proofs? They are lying. They are part of a strategy of character assassination, which we have known these people indulge in,” she said.

The Congress president said the government should conclude an impartial inquiry into the issue as quickly as possible and the truth will emerge.

“These people have been in the government for two years and the enquiry is on, why they don’t complete it quickly as soon as possible, an impartial inquiry and everything will come out, the truth will come out,” she added.

Fresh revelations in the VVIP chopper scam had raised questions about the role of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in awarding the Rs 3,727-crore contract to UK-based AgustaWestland.

AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, had allegedly paid more than Rs 375 crores as a bribe to secure the Rs 3,727-crore contract to supply 12 VVIP helicopters to the Indian Air Force.

In January 2013, India cancelled the deal and the CBI was assigned to investigate whether kickbacks were paid to Indian officials.

Talking to the media after a meeting chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her official 10, Janpath residence, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge expressed his disappointment over a report published in a leading English daily with regard to the VVIP helicopter deal.

“We will move an adjournment notice for discussion. There is a report published in a newspaper…We are ready to discuss the Augusta Westland issue in the Parliament,” Kharge said.

BJP had appointed Meenakshi Lekhi to lead the attack against Congress in Lok Sabha.

Ms. Gandhi’s political secretary and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel also rubbished the allegations against him and the party as “absolutely baseless.”

“This government, when they are saying all these things outside and inside Parliament, why can’t they investigate,” he said.

“If there is something against me, they should find out and they should hang me,” he said when asked by reporters for his reaction to the allegations.

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