This Will Not Be Bofors, Parrikar Tells Rattled Cong On Agusta
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said the Agusta scam could have been stopped in 2012
“You cannot run the government by practising politics of vendetta”, said Cong MP Jairam Ramesh in the Rajya Sabha
“What we could not do in Bofors, we may be able to do now,” Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday. India hopes that Parrikar keeps the promise as the nation has been suffering due to institutionalised corruption.
He made a statement in Lok Sabha and explained why the government believes the Congress designed a corrupt deal to buy AgustaWestland helicopters, and then did not take any action.
Parrikar’s Bofors reference was aimed at Sonia Gandhi and the decades-old corruption scandal that cast shadow on Rajiv Gandhi, though he was not convicted of any charges.
A few weeks ago, a Milan court convicted Agusta officers for paying bribes in India. The judge referred to documents seized from middlemen and Agusta executives. In them, Congress leaders including party president Mrs Gandhi are referred to. The judge has said that though there is evidence that Indian politicians and bureaucrats were bought, it is up to India to uncover the guilty - a comment Parrikar referenced in his speech.
The Defence Minister said the Agusta scam could have been stopped in 2012, when executives of the Anglo-Italian firm were arrested in Italy. Instead, he said, the Congress-led government waited a full two years - till 2014 - to cancel the contract for a dozen helicopters for the use of VVIPs.
In protests, the Congress walked out of the Lok Sabha during a lengthy debate, demanding a Supreme Court-monitored investigation on the Agusta deal. Before that, the defense of the Congress was presented by Jyotiraditya Scindia, who said of Sonia Gandhi, “She is a sherni (lioness)...they are scared of her”.
The rattled Congress exhibited its anger in Rajya Sabha too. Party leader Jairam Ramesh alleged that the “sole objective” of Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah was to “fix” Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the scam.
Ramesh also claimed that the Prime Minister did have a “brushoff meeting” with his Italian counterpart in New York last year after which India “diluted” its position on the Italian Marines issue and invited AgustaWestland to participate in Make In India programme.
“Subramanian Swamy represents the politics of blackmail, insinuation and inneundo whose Jagadguru is Modi,” he claimed.
“The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah approach of governance is fake investigation ....They have no interest in bringing closure to any case,” he said making a strong pitch for a Supreme Court-monitored inquiry into the chopper deal.
He said that BSP, JD-U and Left parties along with Congress have demanded such a probe to ensure a “doctored” inquiry does not take place.
Alleging that the Modi dispensation wanted a “doctored inquiry to tell the world that Congress leadership is the beneficiary”, he said “There is no doubt that the Prime Minister himself is masterminding the conspiracy to implicate the Congress leadership...”
“You cannot run the government by practising politics of vendetta, revenge and intimidation...Governments do not function by looking backwards but forward,” Ramesh said.
Taking a dig at the Prime Minister, he said “acche din” (good days) for him would come only when the Congress leadership has been “fixed”.
Attacking Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the Congress leader said his reply in the Rajya Sabha to the debate on AgustaWestland issue yesterday was one of the “worst examples in parliamentary history” as instead of responding to issues raised by the opposition, he read out a “catalogue of accusations and charges”.
Ramesh accused Parrikar of not maintaining the dignity expected of a Defence Minister by “resorting to a political speech”.
“The cat is out by the manner in which the Prime Minister last night tweeted and hailed Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s reply in Rajya Sabha on the issue. It shows not only his mindset but his strategy too,” Ramesh said.
Ramesh wondered that if BJP is against AgustaWestland, then why was the company invited to participate in ‘Make in India’ initiative.
On the issue of an alleged meeting between Prime Minister Modi and his Italian counterpart, he said while the External Affairs Ministry has denied that “there was any formal meeting, it has not refuted any brush off meeting, brush on meeting, informal meeting, tea meeting, coffee meeting.”
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had last week said reports about a meeting between the two Prime Ministers was “false and untrue in entirety. No such meeting at all has been held.”
Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Friday participated in a ‘March of Democracy’ at Jantar Mantar in Delhi, warning the Modi government of consequences of spreading “lies and falsehood”, in what appears to be a veiled reference to the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal scam controversy.
Addressing a Congress rally, Sonia Gandhi urged her party workers to take up the task of spreading the “truth” about Modi government to every corner of the country. “Modi government is trying to destroy the roots of democracy,” she accused.
On his part Rahul Gandhi mocked the government’s agenda of bringing “acche din” for the country, questioning the state of an economy that is reeling under drought.
“Today, we have come together to give a message that we will not let Modi government topple democracy. Congress will not buckle under any form of injustice and will take detractors head on. Life has taught me to struggle, we have faced a lot of challenges. They don’t know what we are made of” Sonia said.
Rahul Gandhi said “Aaj hindustan mein sirf do logon ki baat chalti hai, Narendra Modi ji aur Mohan Bhagwat ji”.
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