The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was put in an embarrassing position as its convener and former defence minister George Fernandes on Saturday alleged former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had desisted him from probing the Bofors gun payoff scandal.
"Vajpayee told me not to touch this (the Bofors scam)," Fernandes told CNN-IBN in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh.
The statement comes at a time when the NDA was trying to corner the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government over the delay in extradition of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, a prime accused in the arms purchase scandal of the mid-1980s, who was arrested in Argentina last month.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA will be hard put to explain Fernandes' remarks. BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad had earlier claimed that it was only the NDA government (1998-2004) that had made any substantial progress in the Bofors probe.
Fernandes, a veteran socialist, is of late drifting away from his Janata Dal-United and is reportedly getting closer to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav ahead of the crucial assembly elections in that state.