BJP launches fresh AgustaWestland attack, Congress hits back
The BJP accused the Congress of defending Michel and asked why it was scared of a probe into the case. Antony hit back at the BJP and the government, saying “lies” were being manufactured to divert attention from the Rafale deal. He said the government has refused to order an inquiry into the matter or have joint parliamentary committee look into it.india Updated: Dec 31, 2018 23:05 IST
The war of words between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Opposition Congress escalated on Monday over the cancelled AgustaWestland helicopter deal. BJP chief Amit Shah alleged that “the friendship” between the alleged chopper deal middleman, Christian Michel, and “one family in India is time-tested and deep”.
The Congress hit back, accusing the government of manufacturing lies. It insisted that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, and his mother, Sonia Gandhi, never interfered in any defence deals during previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Shah attacked the Gandhi family on Twitter as did some BJP chief ministers and leaders at separate press conferences. “... the friendship between Michel and one family in India is time tested and deep,” Shah alleged.
Michel was extradited to India from Dubai on December 4. He is alleged to have bribed government officials to secure the chopper deal for Anglo-Italian firm, AgustaWestland, in 2010 when the Congress-led UPA was in power. The UPA government later cancelled the deal in 2013 over the alleged bribery.
Congress leader AK Antony defended his party. “… Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never showed any interest...never interfered in the AgustaWestland deal. During my entire tenure as defence minister, Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi never interfered in any defence deals,” he told reporters.
The war of words began when the Enforcement Directorate on Saturday told a Delhi court that Michel was misusing legal access by handing his lawyers notes on how to deal with questions.
The BJP accused the Congress of defending Michel and asked why it was scared of a probe into the case.
Antony hit back at the BJP and the government, saying “lies” were being manufactured to divert attention from the Rafale deal. He said the government has refused to order an inquiry into the matter or have joint parliamentary committee look into it.
“During our time, whenever there were allegations, even in media reports, we took action and held an inquiry,” he said. “Lies lies and lies… they are trying to manufacture something out of nothing. They are misusing the agencies to manufacture lies...,” he said. He accused the government of vendetta politics “without any iota of truth”.
Antony said the UPA government ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the allegations of corruption in the helicopter deal and initiated proceedings to blacklist the company. He added his government fought the case “unusually” in a Milan court against the chopper-making company and won it too.
“We cancelled the contract and started proceedings of blacklisting. But after we left, the Modi government did nothing against AgustaWestland. Instead of acting against the company, they favoured the company,” said Antony.
Antony added they would not have ordered a probe or gone to Italy to fight the case if the Congress had anything to hide.
First Published: Dec 31, 2018 23:05 IST