Congress has accused the government of cover up “disillusionment” with its work by trying to “vilify the head of a political party” on the basis of mere “insinuation and innuendo” in the AgustaWestland helicopter issue.
Congress member Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Wednesday defended his party in the Rajya Sabha as the House took up a discussion on alleged corruption in the purchase of AgustaWestland VVIP helicopters, and responded point-by-point to allegations of wrongdoings levelled by the ruling dispensation against the previous UPA government.
Earlier, BJP’s Bhupendra Yadav initiated the discussion, accusing the Congress of creating conditions to favour the Italian company for the purchase and pointed fingers at the UPA government over its role in the deal to purchase 12 VVIP helicopters.
The BJP has alleged that the former UPA government allegedly eased some key clauses to benefit the UK-based AgustaWestland, with whom India had signed a Rs 3,727-crore contract for 12 AW-101 choppers in February 2010.
The firm, a subsidiary of Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica, beat off competition from US rival Sikorsky to win the deal.
Singhvi, while defending the UPA dispensation, attributed “innuendos” against its leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi or Ahmed Patel to the “visceral hatred” of the BJP.
“The interest appears to be to keep the pot boiling, not to reach a conclusion and keep finger pointing,” he said alleging that the BJP was not interested in finding the real culprits.
Slamming the ruling dispensation for its “hubris” and “arrogance of power,” Singhvi said the Congress is not going to be intimidated by such tactics.
Ridiculing the BJP’s attempt to link certain initials like “CP, VP and AP” to the deal, Singhvi cited the Hawala case in which an initial ‘LKA’ had featured and the high court had said the presence of initials constituted no evidence.
Singhvi said it was “hypocrisy” of the ruling party in applying “double standards” as leader of the House Arun Jaitley had in the Hawala case argued initials have no evidentiary value. He said that ‘AP’ could stand for many people including the present chief minister of Gujarat, Anandiben Patel.
The Congress leader said not a single allegation that was being touted was part of the findings of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) or Enforcement Directorate.
“We are relying on the interpretations and misrepresentations of an Italian court,” he said adding the official translation of the judgement is still not available.
He said the name of Congress president Sonia Gandhi merely figures in one letter where it is said that she would be among the VVIPs who would fly in the helicopter. He added that even Guido Haschke, one of the alleged middlemen, had also said that he does not know what the initial ‘AP’ stands for.
“I hope we collect all APs. That illustrates the problem we face when we start using initials,” Singhvi said.
An Italian court of appeals in Milan brought the deal back into the spotlight early last month by reversing a lower court’s verdict that there was no evidence of corruption. The court then found former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-CEO Bruno Spagnolini guilty of corruption and sent them to prison.