Confrontation over VVIP chopper deal escalated on Friday with the government vowing to track down the main beneficiaries of the kickbacks so that “we can do” what “we could not do in Bofors” even as Congress said it is ready to face a probe that is monitored by the Supreme Court.
The government and the Congress clashed in the Lok Sabha after which the main opposition party staged a walkout led by Sonia Gandhi even as Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar was responding to a Calling Attention Motion on the scam-tainted AgustaWestland deal.
The two sides traded charges and sought to put the onus on each other for controversial decisions regarding the Rs 3600 crore deal for 12 VVIP helicopters in which about Rs 360 crore are alleged to have been paid as kickbacks.
The previous UPA government had “done everything” to help AgustaWestland bag the chopper deal, Parrikar said and asserted that the main beneficiaries of the kickbacks will be tracked as the CBI is “very seriously” probing the case.
In a hard-hitting speech, Parrikar said the “entire corruption” in the deal took place during the UPA tenure but former Air chief S P Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan are “small people” who “simply washed their hands in a flowing ganga (of corruption)” and that the government will “find out where the river was going”.
Suggesting that some people higher up in the UPA dispensation might have been major beneficiaries of the kickbacks, he said the decision on the contract was taken in 2010 while Tyagi had retired in 2007 and “might have got just a ‘chiller’ (loose change)” or ‘prasad’.
“Who gave order in 2010?... How much that person has got we have to find that out.... He (Tyagi) was not there then,” the Defence Minister said.
“I hope members are satisfied and members will support government in finding the truth. The truth may lead to many unwanted realism. What we could not do in Bofors, may be we will do it in AgustaWestland,” Parrikar said but deliberately refrained from naming anybody.
As Congress members created uproar and tried to disrupt his speech, he remarked, “Why are you (Congress) concerned? I have not named anybody. You seem to know where the ganga was going.”
Countering the attack, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said, “Do not level baseless allegations. Answer the questions which we are raising. Supreme Court monitored investigation should happen and its reports should be placed in the House every three months.”
Stoutly defending Sonia Gandhi, he described her as a ‘sherni’ (lioness) and said nowhere was her name mentioned. “Whenever the name of Sonia Gandhi comes, they start feeling irritated and they are afraid of her because she is a ‘lioness’. That is why they (BJP) are afraid of her,” he said.