Sparks fly in Par­lia­ment over VVIP chop­per scam

BIG FIGHT De­fence min­is­ter says UPA vi­o­lated norms; Congress cries ‘vil­i­fi­ca­tion’

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - HT Cor­re­spon­dent ■ ht­metro@hin­dus­tan­times.com

Sparks flew in the Ra­jya Sabha on Wed­nes­day as the op­po­si­tion and trea­sury benches traded charges over the VVIP chop­per scam with the Congress lash­ing out at the gov­ern­ment over its at­tempt to “vil­ify” party lead­ers through “in­sin­u­a­tion and in­nu­endo”.

For­mer de­fence min­is­ter AK Antony said the change in the chop­pers’ fly­ing al­ti­tude and cabin height -- which BJP lead­ers cited in sup­port of their al­le­ga­tions against the Congress -- were de­cided dur­ing the Atal Be­hari Va­j­payee gov­ern­ment’s ten­ure in Novem­ber 2003 by the Prime Min­is­ter’s of­fice.

The rul­ing party hit back with de­fence min­is­ter Manohar Par­rikar say­ing an “in­vis­i­ble hand” guided the ac­tion or in­ac­tion of the CBI and the en­force­ment direc­torate prob­ing the case of al­leged kick­backs in the Rs3,727-crore deal in favour of the UK-based Agusta-West­land.

“The coun­try wants to know who in­sti­gated, who sup­ported and who ben­e­fited from cor­rup­tion,” Par­rikar said, adding that the in­quiry would fo­cus on the roles of those named in the re­cent judg­ment by an Ital­ian court.

Say­ing that it was proved beyond doubt that there was cor­rup­tion in the deal, Antony asked the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion against those who took money. “If you have ev­i­dence, take ac­tion but don’t threaten, don’t blackmail.”

In­ter­ven­ing in the short-du­ra­tion dis­cus­sion on the is­sue in the Ra­jya Sabha, Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi’s po­lit­i­cal sec­re­tary Ahmed Pa­tel said there was an at­tempt to de­fame his party and its lead­ers and vowed to quit pub­lic life and re­sign from the House if charges against him were proved.

Congress leader Ab­hishek Manu Singhvi ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of tak­ing re­course to “in­sin­u­a­tion and in­nu­endo” to “vil­ify the head of a po­lit­i­cal party” and at­trib­uted it to the BJP’s “vis­ceral ha­tred”. Tak­ing on the BJP for link­ing some ini­tials men­tioned in a hand­writ­ten note by one of the mid­dle­men, which was also ex­am­ined by an Ital­ian court, Singhvi cited the Hawala case to point out it had no ev­i­den­tiary value.

Re­ject­ing the BJP’s at­tempt to link ini­tials such as “CP, VP and AP” to the deal, Singhvi said “AP”, be­ing in­ter­preted as Ahmed Pa­tel, could de­note sev­eral peo­ple in­clud­ing the Gu­jarat CM (Anandiben Pa­tel). He said such at­tempts re­flected the hypocrisy of the rul­ing party as leader of the House Arun Jait­ley had ar­gued in the Hawala case, in which the ini­tials “LKA” had fig­ured, that these had no value as ev­i­dence. >> CON­TIN­UED ON P10 >> RE­LATED RE­PORTS, P10

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