Countering the BJP charge, the ruling Congress on Wednesday said that the tender in the Italian AugustaWestland VVIP helicopter deal was tweaked in 2003 when the NDA coalition was in power with Brajesh Mishra as its National Security Adviser.
The BJP retaliated stating that Mishra had been asked for changes based on the advice of the SPG which guards the VVIPs for whose use the copters were being purchased. The final deal, the main opposition said, was signed in 2010 by the Congress-led UPA Government and it must accept responsibility and reveal the beneficiaries of the alleged swindle. The Congress fears that the BJP would use the chopper deal to disrupt Parliament and drag party president Sonia Gandhi’s name into it.
Congress spokesperson P C Chacko accused the BJP of needlessly “politicising” the issue dragging the Prime Minister, the Congress president and Defence Minister into the deal “in a false propaganda”.
“All the issues are being developed into a political issue to be raised in Parliament. The BJP will not gain anything from this. It may raise the issues, but we hope they will not cross the limits,” Chacko said.
Contrary to what the BJP was alleging, Chacko said the government had written to its Italian counterpart as soon the initial reports came in. The government also ordered a CBI probe after the latest developments in the case, he said.
“However, as the Defence Minister has clarified, no steps will be taken unless we ascertain the facts through our own investigations,” he said.
On being asked why action could not be initiated on the basis of the Italian investigation report, which has led to arrest of the CEO of the Italian firm Finmeccanica on graft charges, Chacko said: “How can we take action on the basis of some preliminary report of some other country? That is not how the system functions. The Opposition is aware of this... that is why I said, the issue is being politicised.”
Ruling out any wrongdoing in the chopper deal, the Congress spokesperson said this was not possible due to a transparency clause under which any defence equipment supplier had to sign an integrity pact with the government if the deal was worth over `300 crore.
“The Defence Minister has already ordered an inquiry...If any wrongdoing is found, strong action will be taken...the firm may be blacklisted and the deal will be cancelled,” Chacko added.