Congress To Target PM Modi For Alleged Gas Scam
NEW DELHI: It doesn’t take a weather expert to predict it’s going to be a hot week in Parliament. On Wednesday, the AgustaWestland scam – a deal to buy helicopters that was designed for generous bribes- will be discussed by the Rajya Sabha or Upper House.
The BJP’s Subramanian Swamy has asked for the debate, keeping his focus, as usual, on pinning down the Gandhis, who head the Congress. With knuckles bared, the Congress, through Pramod Tewari, has also asked for the discussion to telegraph it has nothing to hide.
Unwilling to wait till Wednesday, a third party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, currently seeking re-election in Bengal (and whose top leaders are fighting charges of being caught on camera accepting cash for political favours), has asked for the Agusta debate today to target both the BJP and the Congress.
The AgustaWestland deal was signed in 2010, allowing India to buy 12 helicopters for use by top politicians at a cost of 3,600 crores from the Anglo-Italian manufacturer. Then Italy accused top executives of the firm of paying bribes in countries like India to secure big contracts.
India cancelled the deal in 2014, ordered a CBI inquiry, and banned Agusta and its parent firm, Finmeccanica, from consideration as a supplier to the government.
The BJP, which replaced the Congress-led government with a mammoth win in 2014, says it was only after it came to power that the tainted firms were actually blacklisted. Till then, it said, the Congress had been deliberately slow on its feet.
\In retaliation, the Congress says that Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited the companies back into the country by seeking their participation in his Make In India scheme, which is designed to promote defense manufacturing at home to reduce India’s dependency on importing arms.
The top leaders of the Congress – including Sonia Gandhi – have been mentioned in documents that were reviewed by an Italian court before it decided last month that the India deal was indeed entangled with kickbacks. “I have done nothing wrong,” Mrs Gandhi said to reporters last week. Just in case the Agusta discussion does not work in its favour, the Congress has a Plan B – attacking PM Modi over an alleged scam during his lengthy tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat.
The Congress will use a report by the national auditor or CAG to accuse the PM of allowing nearly 20,000 crores to be squandered by a state-run firm in exploring gas reserves in the Krishna Godavari (KG) river basin, off the coast of Andhra Pradesh.
The auditor in a series of reports has said that the enterprise reflects several financial irregularities.The Congress plans to ask for a parliamentary committee to investigate the alleged scam.