NEW DELHI: Putting the Congress on the back foot, the BJP on Wednesday trained its guns on the Opposition party’s president, Sonia Gandhi, in connection with corruption in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal. The Rajya Sabha witnessed fireworks moments after BJP’s Subramanian Swamy mentioned her name. Agitated Congress members not only stormed the Well, but also rushed menacingly towards the treasury benches, prompting marshals to control them.
Swamy, who took oath on Tuesday as a new member nominated by the government, raked up the AgustaWestland case in his first Zero Hour intervention soon after the House met for the day.
However, a belligerent Congress president rejected his claim as ‘baseless’. “I am not afraid of anyone cornering me as there is no basis to that. All the accusations they are throwing at us are false,” Sonia told reporters at the Parliament complex.
Swamy cited allegations reportedly made by Christian Michel, the controversial middleman in the Rs 3600-crore VVIP chopper deal, through a letter to an Italian court. As he named Sonia, Congress members started protesting. Members of the treasury benches too got up to counter them. As the situation turned volatile, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien adjourned the House. When the House reassembled, Kurien expunged Swamy’s reference to Sonia saying he should not name a member who could not come and defend herself. She is a member of the Lok Sabha. Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, citing media reports, alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met his Italian counterpart and struck a “deal” to free two Italian marines facing charges of killing Indian fishermen, in exchange for information on the Gandhi family in the chopper deal.
However, Finance Minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley denied the reports, saying, “No such meeting at all has been held.” He said written admission by the alleged middleman had to be examined and “investigation is underway”.
Congress members were once again on their feet when the House met after adjournment, chanting “a CIA agent is sitting here” pointing at Swamy. Azad said Swamy would not be allowed to speak unless he withdrew his comments.
Later, Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy, briefing the media, said the government would fulfil Sonia’s demand for a thorough probe, whose modalities would be decided once Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar made a statement in Parliament on the issue.
“The truth is that the Italian court documents carry some facts and her name is there. Names of some senior ministers (of UPA government) are also there... She should find out from her old relations why the court gave such order after two years... Why the court wrote such things that created such a big trouble for her in India. If it is vendetta, she should ask the Italian court about it,” Rudy said.
“She asked what the government did in the last two years. We will do a thorough probe. Whatever you want will happen.... More revelations will come,” he said, adding there was a lot of evidence. He rejected the Congress charge that the NDA government had removed AgustaWestland from the blacklist and said any government transaction with the company remained banned.