The Lok Sabha witnessed a fiery debate on the VVIP chopper deal on Friday with the ruling party fielding defence minister Manohar Parrikar and three other MPs to launch a concerted attack on the Congress, which fought back tooth and nail.
The opposition’s chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia gave a point by point rebuttal of the allegations against Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi who he described as a “lioness” of whom the BJP is scared.
Parrikar, who seemed off-colour during the debate on this issue in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, looked confident in the BJP-dominated Lok Sabha on Friday. The minister described suspects like former air chief SP Tyagi and Gautam Khaitan as “small people” who “washed their hands in the flowing Ganga” and said that the strings of the scam were pulled by more powerful people in the then government, an allusion to Congress’ leadership. He described former defence minister AK Antony as “bechara” whose hands were tied and he feared that “his sainthood would be disrobed”.
Scindia, however, put up a strong defence of party leaders and dwelt at length about how the UPA government swung into action after the scam surfaced, ordering CBI inquiry, scrapping the contract and recovering Rs 2,063 crore from the company.
He extensively quoted the Italian court judge, middleman Christian Michel and Italian official Peter Hullet, to underline how there was no evidence whatsoever against Sonia Gandhi. “Sherni hai sherni,” he said about Gandhi, adding that the BJP was scared of her.
Scindia, who was congratulated by both Sonia and Rahul at the end of his speech, engaged with BJP’s Anurag Thakur, Nishikant Dubey and Parrikar, vowing to rip apart their “mayajaal”. “Why in the FIPB meeting on October 8, 2015, was permission given to AgustaWestland, which was a blacklisted company? Answer this ... why Finmeccanica was invited to participate in a Make in India programme,” he asked.
“Your (BJP) party president said that this is a bogus company and you invited a bogus company to Make in India. They have to give the answers to this,” the Congress member said.
Scindia quoted from a news report and claimed that middleman Michel has said he was pressurised to incriminate the Gandhi family in return of charges against him being dropped. He also referred to another report that claimed, quoting Michel, that PM Modi had offered Italian government the freedom of its two murder accused marines in return of evidence linking Sonia in the scandal.
When Parrikar countered saying that this had already been denied, the Congress chief whip retorted, asking how it was correct for the ruling side to quote Michel and wrong if he exposed the government’s nefarious designs. Scindia sought to know from the BJP why it opposed the setting up of a joint parliamentary committee when the ruling UPA proposed it in March 2013.
The ruling party MPs earlier made several allegations leading to sharp exchanges with the opposition benches. Anurag Thakur alleged that a senior Congress leader went to Dubai to meet Michel. Opposition MPs dared him to name the leader, but Thakur refused.