President Pranab Mukherjee believes that there was no scam or irregularity involved in the purchase of Bofors Howitzer gun. The views published in his interview to the foreign press may just have opened a debate if the entire controversy was media trial.
“First of all – it is yet to be to be established that there was a scandal. No Indian court has established it,” President Mukherjee said in an interview given to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyhetter at the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Pranab Mukherjee, perhaps the tallest of leaders in the Congress party after Sonia Gandhi before becoming the President has served at various positions in the Government of India as well. Prior to becoming the President, he had been Union Defense, External Affairs and Finance Minister besides being one of the most influential member of the Congress Working Committee.
Reiterating that the Bofors deal was no scam, he opined that the media may have dubbed it a scandal.
“I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, Indian army is using it. The so-called scandal which you talk of, yes, in the media, it was there. There was a media trial. But I’m afraid, let us not be too much carried by publicity,” the President told the Swedish paper.
The controversy broke out in 1986 when the then Congress government under late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, gave Swiss arms manufacturer Bofors Rs. 1,500 crore contract to supply Howitzer guns to India. It was the Swedish media which reported that the company had paid alleged kickbacks to Indian politicians and defence officials. The case created tremors in the political landscape with senior Congress leader and then Union minister VP Singh leading a revolt against his own government. The matter further snowballed after Indian media and the opposition parties took it up aggressively against the ruling Rajiv Gandhi led government. The Congress eventually suffered due to the scam allegations as it lost the general election in 1989. Not just that, the party had for the long time faced heat over the allegations of scam.
“What I am saying is that in media it was publicised. But up to now, no Indian court has given any decisive verdict about the alleged scandal,” President Mukherjee further added.
The ruling BJP which has never spared a slightest of opportunity to attack the Congress party over the ‘scam’ allegations, refused to react on when questioned about the President Pranab Mukherjee’s interview.
“I will not comment on the President’s statement,” BJP chief Amit Shah told the press at party headquarters in New Delhi.