Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday said the BJP’s new revelation on the VVIP chopper scam was ‘most welcome.’
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar will place in Parliament a detailed chronology of the controversial deal and seek to establish how the previous government allegedly eased some key clauses to benefit the UK-based AgustaWestland, with whom India signed a Rs 3,727-crore contract for 12 AW-101 choppers in February 2010. The firm is a subsidiary of Italian defence conglomerate Finmeccanica. Parrikar’s much-awaited statement in the Rajya Sabha will come in the wake of the BJP mounting sharp attacks on top Congress leaders, including party president Sonia Gandhi, over the deal. While former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi and his cousins are among those accused of taking bribes, the names of some top Congress leaders and bureaucrats have also been linked to the kickbacks – leading to a no-holds-barred political battle.
Earlier in the day, Sonia called a party meeting to decide their strategy in the debate on the AgustaWestland chopper scam in the Rajya Sabha. With BJP MP Kirit Somaiya alleging that Rahul’s close aide Kanishka Singh was involved in AgustaWestland and 2010 Commonwealth Games scams, the Rajya Sabha could see a heated debate.
Sonia Gandhi will sit with former PM Manmohan Singh, leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, former defence minister AK Antony, party’s deputy leader in the Upper House Anand Sharma and some other senior leaders to discuss the talking points and ways to counter the BJP.
Congress sources said, Azad, Sharma and the party’s ace legal brain, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, may participate in the debate in which defence minister Manohar Parikkar is likely to furnish fresh details of the scam to corner the Congress.
The party may have to fend for itself in Rajya Sabha as Trinamool Congress, a key Opposition party, has already indicated it will train its guns on the Congress. Parties such as the AIADMK and the BJD, too, are likely to take this opportunity to hit out at the Congress. All eyes would be on the Left parties, a key force in the Upper House, if they come out in support of the Congress in a corruption case.
AgustaWestland beat off competition from US rival Sikorsky to win the contract. The deal came back into the spotlight early last month, after an Italian court of appeals reversed the verdict of a lower court that corruption could not be proved. The higher court in Milan found former Finmeccanica chairman Giuseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland ex-CEO Bruno Spagnolini guilty of corruption and sent them to prison.