Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not have “enough courage” to arrest Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the AgustaWestland case, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Saturday amid a three-way political tug-of-war over a controversial VVIP chopper deal.
The Congress cited alleged wrongdoings by some leaders of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, sending the political mercury soaring on an action-packed Saturday.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had earlier said Kejriwal was trying to “deflect attention” at a time a debate over alleged kickbacks in the supply of 12 choppers to the Indian Air Force in the UPA regime has cornered the Congress party.
Here are the highlights of the day.
What Kejriwal said
The Congress and the BJP have an “alliance in corruption”, Kejriwal said at a protest rally in Jantar Mantar.
Questioning the progress of the investigation into the chopper deal, the AAP leader alleged that there had not been an “inch” of movement.
“Modi had said that the corrupt will be sent to jail. It has been two years and not a single person has been sent to jail,” he said.
AgustaWestland, a subsidiary of Italian defence giant Finmeccanica, allegedly paid more than Rs 375 crore as bribe in a deal to supply the helicopters to the IAF.
The issue rocked Parliament after a Milan court convicted two Italian officials for bribing Indian officials and politicians to secure the Rs 3,727-crore contract in 2010. The deal was scrapped in 2014.
“The Italian court order also has names of Sonia Gandhi, Ahmed Patel, certain officers and Congressmen, but Modi is not able to gather enough courage to arrest Sonia Gandhi, to ask her even two questions, to interrogate her...I want to ask Modiji why are you scared of her?” Kejriwal said.
Although the Italian court did not indict any Indian politician, the BJP has sought to corner the Congress over references in the court documents to middlemen talking about “Signora Gandhi” - believed to be Congress president Sonia Gandhi - being the “driving force” behind the deal.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has said the wrongdoers in the case will be punished but former Union minister AK Antony, under whose watch the deal was scrapped, pointed out that it was the then UPA government that blacklisted the firm, a claim disputed by the NDA.
Raising the controversy over Modi’s education details, Kejriwal said the country will continue to respect the PM if he accepted that his degree was “fake”, but people will not tolerate fraud and forged degrees.
The Central Information Commission had on April 29 directed the universities of Delhi and Gujarat to respond to a letter from Kejriwal, which it treated as a Right to Information application on Modi’s educational qualifications.
While the Gujarat university has shared details of Modi’s MA degree saying he scored 62.3% as an external student, Delhi University has yet to respond.
Meanwhile, more than 600 AAP supporters and some party leaders were detained later in the day as they took out a protest march towards the residence of Modi.
How Congress reacted to the Agusta charges
Hitting back, the Congress asked Kejriwal to list out the names of party leaders who had been sacked in the past year over various cases of wrongdoings.
Congress leader Manish Tewari said that it will be prudent if Kejriwal first put the affairs of his own house in order.
“They need to tell the people of Delhi that how many of their ministers were sacked in the past one year, what are the charges against them, why they had to leave their posts and how many of their MLA s are facing heinous criminal charges in terms of the provision of the IPC criminal procedure code,” Tewari was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.