Congress leader AK Antony on Monday claimed that United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party chief Rahul Gandhi never interfered in any defence deals. The Bharatiya Janata Party had attacked the Congress on Saturday, after the Enforcement Directorate told a court that Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, spoke of a “Mrs Gandhi” during interrogation.
The former Congress-led UPA government had signed the Rs 3,565-crore helicopter deal in 2010 with the British-Italian firm AgustaWestland. The deal was put on hold after Italy arrested the head of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company, on charges of paying bribes to win the contract. Michel is one of three suspected middlemen who Indian investigative agencies believe brokered the deal. The alleged middleman was extradited to India on December 4.
“The government, BJP are misusing agencies to manufacture lies,” Antony, a defence minister during the UPA regime, told reporters in New Delhi according to the Hindustan Times. “Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi never interfered in any defence deal.”
“The moment the report came from Italy that there is corruption in this case, it was me who had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry, not this government,” Anthony said, according to The Indian Express. “Our government took an unusual decision to fight this case in Italy. Ultimately, we won the case.”
Antony said the erstwhile government blacklisted “five to six” companies, including an American, a Russian and a Singaporean firm. “That was our track record, but what is the track record of the present government?” he asked.
All chief ministers of BJP-ruled states are supposed to hold a press conference later on Monday on the Enforcement Directorate’s submissions to the court in the VVIP chopper deal.
Congress trying to give case a ‘political colour’: Gujarat BJP chief
Gujarat BJP President Jitu Vaghani claimed that the Congress was trying to give a “political colour” to the case, PTI reported. Referring to a past judgement by an Italian court in the case, he said the mention of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Congress leader Ahmed Patel in the verdict clearly showed that they were involved in the scam.
“Instead of giving a political colour to the ongoing probe, Congress leaders must first explain why the name of a Gandhi family member crops up whenever a foreigner is caught for corruption,” Vaghani told reporters in Gandhinagar.
“Why is the Congress now feeling uneasy?” he asked. “They are worried because their leaders indulged in scams during UPA rule. It was the UPA government, not us, which handed over the probe to the CBI. The BJP government is only taking the probe ahead.”
Vaghani said Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not spare anyone involved in corruption.