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. The government is there for two years, an inquiry is there. Why don’t they complete it as early as possible…and impartially?” asked Mrs Gandhi after the scandal topped parliament’s agenda today. “Let them hang me if there is an iota of evidence,” said her aide Ahmed Patel, who, like Mrs Gandhi, is referred to in documents that were reviewed by an Italian court before it decided bribes had been paid to Indians.
The helicopters are manufactured by AgustaWestland, whose parent company is Italian; its top executives were investigated for corruption in Italy.
The Rs. 3,600-crore deal for a dozen VVIP choppers 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 mention her advisors including Mr Patel and then Prime Minister 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.
A senior BJP leader told, “We have a lot of ammunition. A court order carries testimonies which flag names of some senior Congress leaders and UPA government functionaries.”