NEW DELHI: With the BJP making it clear that it will target Sonia Gandhi in parliament over alleged corruption in a deal to buy 12 helicopters for use by top politicians, her party, the Congress, has decided to retaliate with equal aggression.
“I have done nothing wrong. This government has been in power for two years, why didn’t it move earlier?” asked Mrs Gandhi today after the scandal topped parliament’s agenda today.
Juicing up the political controversy, the Congress has gone on the offensive by asking for a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on the AgustaWestland deal that was arranged when the party led the previous government.
An Italian court investigated the contract because Agusta’s parent company is Finmeccanica, an Italian defence manufacturer, and decided that vast amounts of bribes were routed to India by company executives to land the deal for 12 VVIP helicopters for about Rs. 3,600 crore. The deal was cancelled by India in 2014 after the Italians began investigating it, a point the Congress is flashing in its defence along with the fact that AgustaWestland has not been banned by the new government from bidding for new defence deals.
Documents related to the negotiations and reviewed by the Italian court refer to “Signora Gandhi” as “the driving force” in seeking the new helicopters and her advisors including then PM Manmohan Singh. The BJP says this proves that Mrs Gandhi, who is the boss of the Congress, and the party’s top leaders, were involved in kickbacks.
The BJP yesterday asked for a discussion on the AgustaWestland deal in both houses of parliament. The bite in that has been somewhat diminished with Congressman Pramod Tiwari asking for the same in the Rajya Sabha to prove that the Congress has nothing to hide.