Why no probe in India, because firm from Italy? BJP; NDA started deal, retorts Cong
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The parties also gave notice that they would raise the issue in the coming session of Parliament and sought to know who have received the commission and kickback which has been admitted by the Italian prosecution.
However, Congress hit back at the BJP, saying it was indulging in propaganda and planning to disrupt Parliament on the issue like it did in the case of 2G and other issues in the past. The party said the government promptly ordered a CBI probe and maintained that "nobody can be hanged" without proper investigation.
"Scam, scandal and corruption has become the defining feature of this government which keeps on appearing with alarming regularity causing great loss to government revenue.
"This is the most corrupt Union government since Independence. BJP is determined to raise this issue inside and outside Parliament and seek accountability from the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi and the Defence Minister," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told a press conference. The country must know who have received the commission and kickback when it is admitted by the Italian prosecution that huge commission has been paid, he said.
Asked about former Air Chief S P Tyagi's claim that during the NDA government in 2003 the requirements for the chopper were changed, Prasad said, "The NDA government did not order supply of the choppers. No commission was paid and no
choppers were bought."
Since Tyagi's name figures as one who swung the deal for bribes, Prasad said his statement should be "taken with a pinch of salt".
Accusing the government of not initiating any inquiry in the Augusta Westland helicopter deal in spite of serious allegations in public domain for the last one year that commissions to the tune of Rs 350 Cr have been paid, Prasad said a very legitimate question arises because of the "highly suspicious circumstances" surrounding inaction and whether the company's Italian connection had to do something about it.
"We all know how in the Bofors case the Congress government sought to bail out Quattrocchi (Italian businessman)," he said, adding the chopper deal had the "makings of a second Bofors scam".
The main opposition also demanded that the helicopter deal should be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine choppers should be stopped till all doubts are cleared. The Left parties also demanded scrapping of the deal in the wake of bribery charges and accused the government of failing to check "high level corruption" in defence deals in the past eight years.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said his party would raise the issue seeking government answers in Parliament in the coming session.
CPI leader D Raja demanded blacklisting of the company and immediate prosecution of those who received kickbacks. SP spokesperson Kamal Farooqi demanded scrapping of the deal while JD(U) Chief Sharad Yadav while scams keep happening and no steps are being taken to end corruption.
Cong accuses BJP of politicising Italian chopper deal
Facing Opposition heat over allegations of kickbacks in the purchase of 12 VVIP choppers, Congress today accused BJP of politicising the issue and said the process for the deal was actually initiated by NDA's Defence Minister George Fernandes in 2003.
Congress spokesperson P C Chacko while lauding the government for "wasting no time" in recommending a CBI probe into the deal as soon as irregularities came to the fore said it will be "cancelled" and the company will be "blacklisted" if any wrongdoing is proved.
Dismissing the BJP's refrain that UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should clarify why there is corruption in every department of this government and that the deal has "makings of second Bofors scam", Chacko said there is adequate response from the government.
"When allegations are coming, we have been very sensitive to them and responding. All of a sudden they say that Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi should clarify They are politicising the issue. We want to pin down this kind of political propaganda," the Congress spokesperson said.
He added that the idea of purchasing these helicopters came up first when Fernandes was the Defence Minister of NDA and "in 2003, the NDA government initiated it... some decision was taken in 2003", and after the completion of processes the deal was struck in 2010.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh also said that the purchase of AugustaWestland helicopters from Italy was proposed by the NDA regime.
"Our Defence Minister has handed it (probe) over to CBI. Had it been NDA government, what they would have done? Can anyone be hanged without investigation?," he said.
At the AICC briefing, Chacko said no time was wasted and as soon as the Italian government acted against Giuseppe Orsi, the head of Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, the Defence Minister immediately ordered a CBI probe.
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