VVIP helicopter scam: “Where are the proof ? : Sonia Gandhi
NEW DELHI: : Under relentless attack over the Uttarakhand crisis, the BJP on Wednesday countered the Congress by raking up the AgustaWestland VVIP helicopter scam, in which the names of the party top brass, including its president Sonia Gandhi, have also cropped up.
However, Sonia Gandhi rejected allegations linking her and party leaders in the AgustaWestland chopper deal bribes and said she was not ‘afraid’ of being ‘cornered’ on the issue.the Congress, has decided to retaliate with equal aggression.
She asked what the government had been doing in power for the last two years on the issue and demanded the ongoing inquiry be completed impartially. “I am not afraid of anyone cornering me as there is no basis to it. All accusations they are throwing at us are false,” Gandhi told reporters in Parliament complex as 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,” Gandhi said.
Referring to the Modi government, Gandhi asked what has it been doing over the last two years. “The government is there for the last 2 years. What are they doing? Inquiry is there, why don’t they complete it? Complete it as soon as possible, impartially,” she added.
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 the Parliament, why can’t they investigate,” Patel said.
“If there is something against me, they should find out and they should hang me,” he said when asked by reporters for his reactions over the allegations.Earlier in Lok Sabha, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said all newspapers have the news item regarding the VVIP helicopter deal and allegations have been levelled against party leaders.
“Names have appeared. We will have to think about it. We should discuss,” he said without naming AgustaWestland. Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said the issue can be raised after the Question Hour.
“I have done nothing wrong. The government is there for two years, an inquiry is there. Why don’t they complete it as early as possible…and impartially?” asked Mrs Gandhi today after the scandal topped parliament’s agenda today. “Let them hang me if there is an iota of evidence,” said her aide Ahmed Patel, who, like Mrs Gandhi, is referred to in documents that were reviewed by an Italian court before it decided bribes had been paid to Indians.
The helicopters are manufactured by AgustaWestland, whose parent company is Italian; its top executives were investigated for corruption in Italy.
The Rs. 3,600-crore deal for a dozen VVIP choppers was cancelled by India in 2014 after the Italians began investigating it, a point the Congress is flashing in its defence along with the fact that AgustaWestland has not been banned by the new government from bidding for new defence deals.
Documents related to the negotiations and reviewed by the Italian court refer to “Signora Gandhi” as “the driving force” in seeking the new helicopters and mention her advisors including Mr Patel and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The BJP says this proves that Mrs Gandhi, who is the boss of the Congress, and the party’s top leaders, were involved in kickbacks.
A senior BJP leader told , “We have a lot of ammunition. A court order carries testimonies which flag names of some senior Congress leaders and UPA government functionaries.”