MUMBAI: Hitting out at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis for holding a press conference to level charges against the Congress leadership on the AgustaWestland deal, Maharashtra Congress President Ashok Chavan said here on Monday that it is akin to "a thief complaining about robbery".
Chavan hit back after Fadnavis earlier in the day demanded that in view of the revelations made in the AgustaWestland helicopters deal, the Congress party and the Gandhi family must reply to the corruption charges made against them.
The CM also sought to know why the name of only "one family" keeps recurring in all defence deals involving corruption charges.
"Half the ministers in the state cabinet face scam allegations, more than 17,000 farmers have committed suicide, there is a terrible drought situation, but Fadnavis takes time for speaking on AgustaWestland deal to make false allegations against Congress leaders," Chavan told the media this evening.
Holding a retaliatory media briefing, he pointed out that the CM has never spoken to the media on issues like Bhima-Koregaon, Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide 'Guruji', Milind Ekbote or the Sanatan Sanstha bomb production factory.
"His press conference today (Monday) on AgustaWestland deal is that of a thief complaining about a robbery. Why doesn't he speak out against the Rafale fighter jets deal? This is a programme started by the BJP to make fake allegations and defame the Congress through press conferences with an eye on the upcoming elections," he said.
Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of hiding behind James Christian Michel to cover its own corruption and scams, Chavan demandd to know why Prime Minister Narendra Modi lift the Congress government's blacklisting of the AgustaWestland company and even allowed them to participate in the Make In India initiative.
He cited records of the deal right from the contract process in February 2010 for procuring 12 VVIP helicopters worth around Rs 3,546 crore from AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmeccanica, but after media reports, the then UPA Government ordered a CBI probe into the deal in February 2013.
Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony even proposed a JPC probe which was opposed by the BJP and in January 2014. The UPA government cancelled the contract though three helicopters were received by India against Rs 1,620 crore paid.
Later, the UPA Government confiscated Rs 240 crore from AgustaWestland's Indian bank accounts and filed a case in Italian court, which it won in May 2014.
Against the Rs 1,620 given in August, the government recovered a total of Rs 2,054 crore, though a year before in February 2013, the UPA had started the process to blacklist the company and in July 2014 and initiated the probe into the deal before cancelling the contract.
"However, in August 22, 2014, the BJP Government lifted the ban on AugustaWestland and Finmeccanica, in August 2015, they participated in the 'Make In India' through 'Aero India 2015', in October the government permitted a joint venture with Indian Rotorcraft Ltd to manufacture AW-199 military helicopters in India through AgustaWestland and Tata through the FIPB, and in 2017, another 100 naval choppers were included in the purchase process," said Chavan.
He sought to know why the Modi government shows such favours on blacklisted companies and said it lost all the cases against AgustaWestland in Italy, and the High Court of Milan said there was no corruption by Indian officials in the deal, but even there the present government did not appeal and lost.
"The false story of Michel was written by the Modi government and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in July 2018 to hide their corruption and scams. In July 2018, Michel's lawyer and others had given interviews on the government and ED's offers to them if they named Congress leaders. This is part of a planned conspiracy in which the government is playing dirty defamatory politics using Michel," Chavan said.
He also posed six questions on the deal and said the Sahara diary has named BJP leaders which should be investigated before seeking explanations from the Congress.