At the end of a day marked by long-drawn allegations and counter-allegations over the alleged AgustaWestland scam, Defence Minster Manohar Parrikar launched a strongly-worded offensive against the UPA government over the issue. He has said that the 'country wants to know who instigated, supported and benefited from the corruption.'
He further said that the inquiry in the case will focus on roles of those named in the judgement of Italian court. His statement assumes significance as the judgment mentions Congress President Sonia Gandhi's name.
Even as opposition members created a ruckus almost throughout the speech, Parrikar said that it appears that an "invisible hand" was guiding the action or inaction of CBI and the Enforcement Directorate. He also alleged that choppers were bought at an inflated price and no realistic basis for price negotiations was provided.
Parrikar took a jibe at Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi and said: "Abhishek Manu Singhvi almost convinced me by his argument, now I understand how convincing he is. But the brief is very weak, and even the best advocate can't win the case."
"The Italian court has said there are omissions and commissions at various stages of decision making process indicate malafide and corrupt action given by the goal to favour a particular vendor. The deal was cancelled by the government under advise of CAG," he added.
He also alleged that trials were not conducted on chopper bought by India but another one as it was still at development stage. "Request for Proposal (RFP) stated that field evaluation trials (FET) would be carried out in India, however, this was given a go-by," he said.
Parrikar's address was made even as Congress members expressed their objections, saying that he was taking too long for his speech.
Meanwhile, former Defence Minister AK Antony on Wednesday acknowledged "corruption" in the AgustaWestland chopper deal but said the then UPA dispensation had done no wrong and asked the government to take strong action against those involved without threatening or blackmailing Congress leaders.
He said that the previous NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee had changed the parameters required for acquiring the helicopters for VVIPs.
"Don't try to create doubts, you will not succeed. Don't politicise, you will repent. If you have all evidence, take strong action. But don't threaten and don't blackmail," he said while participating in short duration discussion on the AugustaWestland issue in Rajya Sabha.
He asked the government to take action against the company which gave money and "take action against takers whoever they may be".
AgustaWestland's Rs 3,600 crore contract for supplying 12 VVIP choppers to the Indian Air Force was scrapped by the then UPA government over charges of paying kickbacks to Indian agents.
In January 2013, India cancelled the deal and the CBI was assigned to investigate the matter.
With the issue echoing in Parliament, the Italian's judgment may lead to further political fireworks and a war of words between the BJP and the Congress.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: May 04, 2016 21:00 PM