With BJP demanding reopening of Bofors probe, Congress won't be saved by Rahul Gandhi's rhetoric alone

With the Bofors issue set to rock the nation again, the Indian National Congress may not be able to blame the BJP alone. Only a few days ago, a sub-committee of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) had agreed that the case needed to be looked into again.

 With BJP demanding reopening of Bofors probe, Congress wont be saved by Rahul Gandhis rhetoric alone

File image of Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Lok Sabha members from treasury benches on Monday demanded to reopen the investigation into the alleged irregularities in the Bofors gun case.

It may be mentioned that while PAC is headed by senior Congress leader and Lok Sabha member Mallikarjun Kharge, its sub-committee does not have any members from Congress due to lack of numbers in the Lok Sabha.

BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi raised the issue of the Bofors scandal, demanding opening of the 'boxes'. She said that the 'ghost of Bofors' would continue to haunt the Parliament. She said that there were documents related to discussions between Rajiv Gandhi and the then Swedish prime minister Olof Palme which proved a quid pro quo.

Bofors scam resurfaced in the Parliament, after a sub-committee of PAC suggested that Bofors case should be reopened.

Another BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who is a member of the PAC sub-committee, also raised the issue.

"The CBI should open the case and reinvestigate the case. The CBI had sought permission earlier but UPA government didn’t allow," Dubey.

In response to BJP’s allegations, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi told reporters at the Parliament, "They (BJP) have been responding for the last 30 years, let them continue to do so for another 30 years."

But Congress needs to keep one thing in mind. This time it’s not BJP alone, which is demanding reopening of the Bofors case, but a PAC’s sub-committee as well. And the committee has handed a weapon to the ruling party through its suggestion to reopen the Bofors case.

Monday was not the first time that the ghost of Bofors scam tried to scare Congress in the Parliament. Even during the Monsoon Session in August 2015, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had launched a scathing attack against Rahul. She said that the Congress government led by his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had helped Bofors-accused and alleged middleman Ottavio Quattrocchi and Bhopal gas leak accused Warren Anderson, the chief of Union Carbide, flee from India. In the Bhopal Gas Tragedy — world’s worst industrial disaster — more than 15,000 people had died in Bhopal in 1984.

Rahul had then remarked, "For 30 years, the BJP has lied about my father."

What did the PAC’s sub-committee say?

A six-member sub-committee of PAC — ‘Committee on Non-compliance and Civil Matters’ — which has been examining pending reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had asked the CBI on 13 July as to why the infamous Bofors payoff case should not be reopened.

The PAC sub-committee comprised six non-Congress Members of Parliament including three BJP leaders Nishikant Dubey, Ajay Sancheti and Shivkumar Chanabasappa Udasi, Bhatruhari Mahtab from BJD, Dr Ponnusamy Venugopal from AIADMK, and Gajanan Kirtikar from Shiv Sena.

The sub-committee that looks after the non-compliance by the ministries/departments in timely submission of ‘action taken notes’ (ATNs) on the non-selected audit paragraphs, took cognisance of the long delay in acceptance of the ATN.

The case before the panel was related to two CAG reports of 1989 and 1990.

Why Congress will find it difficult to defend?
In the absence of any Congress MP, the sub-committee headed by BJD leader Mahtab took an astute move. And the day, the sub-committee suggested reopening of the Bofors case, it virtually cornered the Congress. The sub-committee’s suggestion has given strength to BJP to fire fresh salvo at Congress that has no representation in the PAC sub-committee due to lack of numbers in the Lok Sabha. It was decimated to a total strength of 44 in the 2014 General Elections to Lok Sabha and does not hold much weight as a consequence.

Will Rahul’s mere rhetoric help the oldest party of India defend itself in the most infamous kickbacks case ever? Only time will tell.

Updated Date: Jul 25, 2017 06:26:53 IST

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