'VVIP chopper scam case was taken up by UPA, Modi dispensation had blacklisted it': Congress hits back at BJP
Hitting back at BJP on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress on Tuesday sought to know why was Agusta Westland removed from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.
New Delhi: Hitting back at BJP on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress on Tuesday sought to know why was Agusta Westland removed from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.
Rejecting the accusations levelled against the party in the deal, Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma said, "The chopper deal was scrapped. Action was taken by the UPA government. A K Antony, the then Defence Minister had made a statement in Parliament and Agusta Westland was blacklisted.
"Probe was ordered by the UPA government – both by the ED and the CBI," he told reporters.
BJP is planning to target Congress President Sonia Gandhi and other party leaders on the issue of payment of bribes in the Augusta Westland chopper deal during the UPA rule in a bid to corner the main opposition party which has been paralysing Rajya Sabha on the Uttarakhand issue.
Sharma claimed that instead of putting the probe on the fast track, the Modi government removed Agusta Westland from the blacklisted category so that it "could bid for some projects of Navy as part of the Prime Minister's Make in India programme".
"What prompted the BJP government to reverse the decision of blacklisting," he asked insisting that the UPA government had been proactive in the probe once it came to know that some corruption was involved.
"We took the matter to the Milan court, to the Naples prosecutor," he said.
The Congress leader's reactions came following media reports that an Italian court, which has convicted Augusta Westland chief Giuseppe Orsi, has reportedly referred to how the firm paid bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs 3,600 crore deal.
About allegations against Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the matter, Sharma said, "We reject them with the contempt they deserve".
"No one should be making loose comments against Congress President and Manmohan Singh whose integrity and intellect was never in question," he said.
Noting that he was not privy to the Italian court's documents, Sharma took a dig at BJP saying perhaps the "ruling party has got a special interpretation and translators team at their headquarters".
"BJP has been making irresponsible statements and the Congress is not going to accept this. They have been hurling wild accusations. We are not running away from debate. Why the probe is not over in the last two years," he said.
The Congress' counter-attack came close on the heels of BJP using the conviction of Italian officials linked to the VVIP chopper scam to target the former. The saffron party has asked A K Antony to name the party leaders allegedly involved in the scandal.
BJP wanted to know who were the "bribe takers" after those who allegedly gave the bribe were convicted by an Italian court.
Addressing a press conference earlier in the day, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Antony had in March 2013 admitted corruption had taken place in the purchase of VVIP choppers and that bribe had been taken. He asked Antony to come clean on the whole issue.
Fernandes, a former Union minister and Rajya Sabha member, died at a private hospital in Mangaluru on Monday. He was 80, family sources said.
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