Sparks fly in Parliament over VVIP chopper scam
BIG FIGHT Defence minister says UPA violated norms; Congress cries ‘vilification’
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