The Congress on Monday dismissed as baseless and unfounded the claims in the latest tranche of US cables made public by WikiLeaks that former PM Rajiv Gandhi may have been a middleman for an arms deal in 1970s even as the BJP asked the government to come clean.
File photo of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. HT archive
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi referred to the last line in that particular cable to emphasise that there was no basis to the allegations and accused Julian Assange, the founder of the whistleblowing website, of “spreading lies and falsehoods”.
On Monday, The Hindu, citing US embassy cables from 1975, said, Gandhi, much before he was the prime minister, was the “main Indian negotiator” for Swedish aircraft major Saab-Scania which was trying to sell Viggen fighter aircraft to India for which his “family” connections were seen as valuable.
“Having noted what the Swedes had said the cable makes the comment that there was no additional information to either refute or confirm the information…The foundation of the whole story falls flat here,” Dwivedi said.
The cable dated October 21, 1975 says the “Swedish embassy official has informed us that main negotiator with Swedes on Viggen (a fighter aircraft) at New Delhi end has been Mrs Gandhi's older son, Rajiv Gandhi.
Latter's only association with aircraft industry (to our knowledge) has been as pilot for Indian airlines and this is first time we heard his name as an entrepreneur.” Indira Gandhi was the PM at that time and Rajiv was yet to join politics.
The BJP said the revelations were serious. “The nation has a right to know the truth. These are 30 years old documents which point out to a possible connection of late prime minister Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in different defence acquisitions,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
But Dwivedi hit back, saying the opposition party should think where it was taking the politics to and reminded it of another cable, which spoke of a senior NDA leader asking for money from CIA — an apparent reference to former defence minister George Fernandes.
He said the credentials of WikiLeaks were yet to be verified. Urging the media not to “fall for temporary gains”, Dwivedi said “We are very hurt with the news”.