A combative Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh have dismissed bribery charges in a VVIP chopper deal scam amid efforts by the BJP to corner the main Opposition party.
The BJP has upped the ante against Sonia Gandhi, whose name figures in a judgment by an Italian court which sent Finmeccanica’s former CEO Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-head Bruno Spagnolini to jail for false accounting and corruption in the sale of 12 VVIP choppers to India.
Here are five things the Congress said to counter the BJP’s onslaught:
1) Sonia Gandhi, whose name figures in a judgment by an Italian court, said she was “not afraid” and dubbed the allegations as false. Manmohan Singh and former defence minister AK Antony echoed the sentiment. The Congress accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to help the Italian firm which had been blacklisted.
2) Congress members were in uproar in the Rajya Sabha when BJP’s Subramanian Swamy named Sonia Gandhi in the Rajya Sabha during zero hour while speaking on the AgustaWestland deal. “It is touching to see leader of opposition relying on (Christian) Michel for what he said orally but the high court of Italy have recorded a letter written by Michel stating that Sonia Gandhi is the main...” Swamy couldn’t finish his sentence. Congress members sprang to their feet and rushed towards the treasury benches aggressively.
3) “We have nothing to hide. Let them (government) take my name, I am not afraid of anyone because there is no basis to that allegation. They amount to calumny. Where is the proof? They are lying. This is part of their (BJP’s) strategy of character assassination,” Gandhi told the media.
4) Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also rebutted the charges. “There is no case. My party will respond.” Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, whose name also figures in the Milan court ruling, said he was ready to hang if anything was found against him.
5) Former defence minister Antony dared the government to order a CBI probe and get it completed at “war footing”. He said it was the UPA government that ordered a CBI probe and blacklisted the company and accused the Modi government of trying to help the tainted company.
“They have shown criminal negligence in the case... This is a conspiracy to malign Congress leaders.”
Antony said officials from the Indian government were present at the Milan court when the case was first taken up and there were no evidences against any Congress leaders.
The Congress said it had earlier proposed a Joint Parliamentary Committee on AgustaWestland, but BJP refused to participate or cooperate in the matter.