The Congress party on Monday slammed the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government for allegedly appointing AgustaWestland, the controversial Italian firm, as one of agencies to hire choppers and aircraft for VVIPs. Party spokesperson Sachin Sawant sought clarification from the chief minister and the BJP national president Amit Shah during a press conference. Sawant also alleged that the move has exposed BJP’s ‘double standards’ on corruption.
Sawant said, “On one hand, the BJP made hue and cry on corruption by AgustaWestland firm and its parent company Finmeccanica. On the other, it has prepared ground to hire choppers made by them by appointing two agencies.’’
The state government’s general administration department on May 4 issued an order, appointing Adonic Aviation Enterprises and Aloft Aviation Enterprises for hiring aircraft and choppers to be used for state’s important guests and invitees categorised as VVIPs. The department is headed by Fadnavis.
Sawant added that the GR has listed aircraft and choppers that can be hired, and the list also includes three twin-engine choppers — Agusta Grand, Agusta 109P and Agusta 109E. The GR states that these choppers can be hired at the rate of Rs 2,24,500, Rs 2,16,999 and Rs 1,78,500 per hour, respectively.
“Despite this, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led central government had decided to allow the firm to bid for supplying 100 naval utility helicopter (NUH) contract on the condition that it ties up with a local vendor. It was removed from the bidding process when the matter came to light,’’ Sawant claimed.
Refuting the allegations, BJP spokesperson Madhav Bhandari said both the agencies appointed by the state government had no connection with AgustaWestland or its parent firm. The state government’s GR has only laid down guidelines for VVIP movement which state that twin-engine aircraft or choppers are must as part of security measures, he added.
“All the companies which fit into the guidelines as laid down by the Centres category have been mentioned and the agencies have been appointed after proper bidding. There is no question of favouring any company,’’ said a state government official.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in 2013 had registered a case against Augusta Westland in connection with alleged bribes paid by the firm to Indians to clinch the deal for 12 helicopters meant to ferry VVIPs. The central government had also declared that it would start procedure to black list the firm.