AgustaWestland case: War of words between Scindia and Parrikar in LS

Congress and BJP Ministers Manohar Parrikar and Jyotiraditya Scindia had a heated round of talks in the Lok Sabha on Friday, with each side accusing and mudslinging each other ov

er their involvement in the AgustaWestland scam. The Defence Minister Parrikar accused the UPA government of corruption, and this time he was not mincing words. He suggested that the government could now do, what they couldn't do during Bofors scam.

Rallying from the Congress party, Lok Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia called for a Supreme Court supervised investigation into the scam and called on the government's inaction in bringing the corrupt people in the black money scams to justice.

On the subject of the AgustaWestland scam, on the Calling Attention Motion in the Upper House, Scindia said "Do not level baseless allegations. Answer the questions which we are raising. Supreme Court monitored investigation should happen and its reports should be placed in the House every three months."

War of words in the Lok Sabha. File photo. Image Courtesy - CNN News18

War of words in the Lok Sabha over AgustaWestland. File photo. Image Courtesy - CNN News18

He defended the UPA government alleging that the reality of the deal was that it started during the NDA regime in 1999, and the accusation of bringing down the height of helicopter from 6000 to 4500 metres was done by NDA government in 2003 and not the UPA. In December 2003, a letter was written from the Prime Minister's Office to change the norms and make it 4500 metres, he added.

Scindia, stoutly defending his party President, saying that the name of Sonia Gandhi wasn't mentioned in any of the documents related to the scam. "Whenever the name of Sonia Gandhi comes, they start feeling irritated and they are afraid also from her because she is a 'lioness' that is why they (BJP) are afraid of her," he said, adding that the mention about the "family" was of Tyagi's family and not the Gandhi family.

"In February 2013, the UPA government gave the case to the CBI and within 12 days, a preliminary inquiry was lodged, he informed adding Letter Rogatory too was issued to Tunisia, Mauritius and Italy," he said.

"...24 months have passed of your government, what have you done in 720 days of your government? Have you brought in a single penny? Have you even identified a single person who has indulged in corruption," he asked.

"In March 2013, we in the House had proposed to form a JPC (joint parliamentary committee). Why did the NDA oppose that proposal? People of this country should ask why you opposed that proposal in 2013," the Congress leader said. He said the banning and blacklisting of companies too was started by the UPA government. The then Defence Minister had stated that no deal would happen with AgustaWestland, Scindia explained, adding it was UPA government which had brought Rs 2,063 crore.

"Why in the FIPB meeting on 8 October, 2015, permission was given to AgustaWestland which was a blacklisted company? Answer this ... why Finmeccanica was invited to participate in a Make in India programme," he alleged.

BJP strikes back; Parrikar mounts an offensive

Mounting an attack on Congress, Parrikar said the previous UPA government had "done everything" to help AgustaWestland bag the chopper deal and asserted that the main beneficiaries of the kickbacks will be tracked so that "may be we can do" what "we could not do in Bofors".

Replying to the debate on the Calling Attention Motion, Parrikar said "I hope members are satisfied and members will support government in finding the truth. The truth may lead to many unwanted realism. What we could not do in Bofors, may be we will do it in AgustaWestland, continuously targeted the Congress but deliberately refrained from naming anybody.

He said the UPA government had "done everything" to help AgustaWestland bag the Rs 3600 crore deal for purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters and that its action against the company following the disclosure of corruption was not pro-active but "forced by circumstances".

Finding loopholes in the deal, the Defence Minister said the tender was submitted by Italy-based AgustaWestland but the contract was given to the UK-based Agusta Westland International Ltd (AWIL), which was not Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

When Congress created an uproar and tried to disrupt his speech when he took a dig at them, he remarked, "Why are you (Congress) concerned? I have not named anybody. You seem to know where the Ganga was going."

Parrikar continued his barrage of comments against the Congress govt, saying “an investigation is underway with regard to those who washed hands in the flowing Ganga. Those who wash hands in the Ganga have an idea about temperature of the water, how fast the water is flowing. Based on that, we are assessing whether water was cold or hot, whether the water had Hindi, English, Italian or German and what was the issue," Parrikar said.

While giving details of the case, Parrikar continued that the decision to prescribe higher cabin height of 1.8 metres of the helicopter was taken by the UPA government on May 9, 2005 and to buttress his point, he placed on the table of the House the minutes of the meeting that was chaired by the then NSA M K Narayanan.

Noting that the scam surfaced in 2012, the Defence Minister Parrikar said nothing was done by the then UPA government till January 2014.

Responding to Congress contention that the Italian judge had said that there was no evidence against Sonia Gandhi, Parrikar said it was half-truth as the judge had said that it was for India to investigate and for its investigating agencies to "prove the guilt of people who are suspected".

With regard to the Congress charge that the Modi government had allowed an AgustaWestland affiliate to participate in another tender despite the company being blacklisted, the Defence Minister said the firm had only put on website its Request for Information (RFI) which anybody can do in a digital world.

"Any person who wants can put his own information there. Now it is on open internet and if anyone wants to put information, whether it is (Congress leader) Jyotiraditya Scindia, or Christian Michel or Agusta Westland, we cannot stop him," he said.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: May 06, 2016 19:47 PM

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