NEW DELHI: BJP leader Arun Jaitley has said that the erstwhile NDA government made all efforts to bring the guilty to book in the Bofors scam and alleged that successive Congress-led governments or those supported by that party tried to "kill" the case.
"I have no sense of guilt (on Bofors investigations) but have one regret that (though) the NDA did what it could, it is the Congress which tried to kill the case," Jaitley said in an interview to Karan Thapar's 'Devil's Advocate' programme.
"You had long tenures of Congress or Congress-led governments which tried to kill the case," he said. He said that during the NDA regime from 1998 to 2004, the Bofors case was taken to its "logical conclusion" and the CBI, which was probing it, acted independently of the government.
"The CBI made substantial progress in establishing the truth," Jaitley said, adding that it was during the NDA rule that charge sheets were filed, Letters Rogatory were sent and the names of the account holders and the documents related to the pay-offs were procured.
Jaitley alleged that it was the Congress government which came to power in 2004 that asked the CBI not to file an appeal in the Bofors case though all documents in this regard had been prepared by the NDA government before it was ousted in the polls.
Earlier in an interview, former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom, who owned up being the whistleblower in the illegal payoffs case, had said there was no evidence to suggest that then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had taken a bribe in the Bofors deal but that he did nothing to prevent the cover-up that followed in both India and Sweden to protect Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.
Describing the Bofors case as a "terrible chapter" in history, Jaitley said pursuit of truth in the matter is important and it should be disclosed. He conceded that the suggestion of his party colleague Jaswant Singh that a judicial probe be ordered may have difficulties but a probe is needed.
"Jaswant Singh is a very senior man and when he says something, it is with full authority and the party agrees with him," he said. Jaitley said whether it is a judicial commission or a parliamentary committee or an administrative committee of the government, it should make a "fair assessment" of what went wrong.
The intention should be that after 25 years of "disclosure", the Indian society should know "notwithstanding the fact that the entire truth came out, we were not able to prosecute the concerned people," he said.
Asked why Congress President Sonia Gandhi was never questioned even during the NDA rule despite the fact that Quattrocchi was close to the Gandhi family, Jaitley said, "Though she has a lot of explaining to do, it is for the CBI to decide whether to question her.
"The crucial question is--in swinging the contract where did Mr Quattrocchi draw his influence from? Facts established on record available with the CBI show that he was successful in swinging the contract. He was not an official middleman of the company. He got paid. Why did he get paid? Somebody has to answer that question," Jaitley said. The CBI is better suited to answer whether Sonia Gandhi should be questioned, he said.
He termed as "complete rubbish" allegations that there was an understanding between the Congress and the BJP that Sonia Gandhi would not be questioned on the Bofors issue. "This is a figment of your imagination. It has no truth and no connection with reality," he said.
Jaitley alleged that the Congress government had advised India's mission in Argentina not to pursue the extradition of Quattrocchi as the "process was too costly". "The CBI tried to give a burial to the case (during the Congress rule)," he alleged.