The Congress has decided to retaliate with equal aggression, after the BJP has made it clear that it will corner Sonia Gandhi in Parliament over the alleged corruption in a deal to purchase 12 helicopters for use by top politicians.
“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.
Augusta Westland, which manufactures the helicopters, has an Italian parent company; the top executives of that company were interrogated for corruption in Italy.
After the Italians began investigating the case, the Rs. 3,600-crore deal for a dozen VVIP choppers was cancelled in 2014 by India. The Congress is flashing this point in its plea along with the fact that AgustaWestland has not been banned by the new government from bidding for new defence deals.
“Signora Gandhi” is mentioned as the driving force in seeking the new helicopters and her advisors Mr Patel and then PM Manmohan Singh are also mentioned, in the documents associated with the negotiations and reviewed by the Italian court. The BJP says that this is proof of Mrs Gandhi’s and other Congress top leaders’ involvement in kickbacks.
The BJP yesterday asked for a discussion on the AgustaWestland deal in both houses of parliament. The bite in that has been somewhat diminished with Congressman Pramod Tiwari asking for the same in the Rajya Sabha to prove that the Congress has nothing to hide.
A senior BJP leader told NDTV, “We have a lot of ammunition. A court order carries testimonies which flag names of some senior Congress leaders and UPA government functionaries.”