BJP, Cong wrangle in Parl on chopper deal controversy

Rajat Kain

FILE: File photo of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.  Photo - PTI

FILE: File photo of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Photo – PTI

Opposition Congress and the ruling BJP, as expected, sparred over the AgustaWestland chopper deal controversy forcing a string of early adjournments in the Upper House on Wednesday. Making clear its strategy to corner Congress party and its chief Sonia Gandhi on the allegations of bribes in VVIP chopper deal during the UPA regime, newly nominated BJP leader Subramian Swamy sought discussion over the issue.

Not even a minute into his submissions on the floor of the house, Swamy was cut short by vociferous protest raised by the Congress MPs, leading to the first adjournment in Rajya Sabha.

Pandemonium continued even as the house assembled back after 10 minutes, forcing Deputy Chairman to adjourn the house again.

BJP has been targeting the principal opposition party since Tuesday evening following media reports that an Italian court, which convicted AgustaWestland chief Giuseppe Orsi, reportedly said how the firm allegedly paid bribes to top Congress leaders to bag the Rs. 3,600 crore deal.

But in a bid to turn the tables on the issue it has been feeling heat since Tuesday, Congress party took an aggressive posture, questioning Modi government instead.

“We blacklisted the AgustaWestland company… Why did Modi govt allowed this black listed company to take part in Make in India,” Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

Arun Jaitley-Ghulam Nabi Azad“In 2013, once the reports of wrongdoings and allegations of corrupt practice surfaced with regards to the AgustaWestland helicopters, the UPA government directed the CBI and ED probe, cancelled the deal and the government of India got the entire bank guarantee back,” he said amid exchange between the members.

Seeking clarification from the government, Azad also cited the recent newspaper reports of meeting between Prime Minister Modi and the PM of Italy, alleging the former offered a deal to free Italian marines, facing murder case in Indian court, exchange of info on case.

“Whether such a meeting took place between two PMs and whether deal was struck?” Azad sought to know.

Strongly rebutting the newspaper reports, Leader of House and Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “Let me say in entirety that all these report in newspaper cited by the Opposition are false…No such meeting took place.”

“The principal issue is that there was a defense transaction, there was a bribe… The bribe giver has been convicted…the identity of the bribe taker has to be establish…The investigation in this case is at an advance stage,” Jaitley added.

BJP’s top leadership had on Tuesday itself spelled its plans to target Congress party over the issue. Subramanian Swamy, who took oath as the newly-nominated member of Rajya Sabha on Tuesday took up the matter in Rajya Sabha, New Delhi MP and advocate Meenakshi Lekhi is expected to raise the issue in Lok Sabha.