New Delhi, May 6 (IANS) Defence Minister Manohor Parrikar on Friday told Parliament the wrongdoers in the AgustaWestland chopper deal will be punished while Congress president Sonia Gandhi took to the streets to hit back at the government.
In a sign of escalating bitterness over the helicopter deal, Parrikar asserted in the Lok Sabha that the CBI will be able to fix the wrongdoers unlike in the Bofors scam where the accused were not brought to book.
“I can assure you all, I will not fail. What we could not do in Bofors, we may be able to do in AgustaWestland,” he said in response to a discussion.
His response came on queries from members including BJP’s Anurag Thakur, Kirit Somaiya and Nishikant Dubey, Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) as well as Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress).
The Bofors AB company of Sweden was accused of giving kickbacks to win a bid to supply 155 mm field howitzer guns to India.
Ottavio Quattrocchi, an Italian businessman who was being sought in India for allegedly being a conduit for bribes in the Bofors scandal, died in July 2013.
Outside parliament, Congress leaders including Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi took to the streets, warning the Narendra Modi regime not to take the Congress as a “weak” party.
After the government rejected a Congress demand for a Supreme Court-monitored probe into the chopper deal, Congress members, including Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, walked out of the Lok Sabha.
Address thousands of supporters near Jantar Mantar in the heart of the capital, Sonia Gandhi accused the government of working under RSS’ diktat.
Amid incessant shouting of “Sonia Gandhi Zindabad!”, she said: “I want to caution the government that they should not make the mistake of considering the Congress weak.
“A strong message should go from here and it must be heard not only by those in Raisina Hill but those also in Nagpur, on whose directions the Modi government is functioning,” she said in a brief speech.
Gandhi’s reference were to the Prime Minister’s Office at Raisina Hill and the seat of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh headquarters in Nagpur.
Attacking the Congress, Parrikar tried to show sympathy to former defence minister A.K. Antony and dubbed him “bechara”.
“Bechare Antony sahab ke haath baandhe they (A helpless Antony had his limitations),” Parrikar said, adding that once an arrest was made in 2012 in Italy in the case, “Antony was virtually in panic”.
“…because Antony wanted to protect his image,” Parrikar said. “Within two or three hours, Antony moved the file, cleared papers and ordered a CBI probe.”
He also said the field trials of the chopper outside India were initially opposed by Antony. “But he was later convinced to change his stand.”
The minister said the CBI sat over the matter and “did nothing” till January 2014.
The debate was punctuated with sarcasm and humour from both sides.
Congress MP Scindia attacked the BJP for making veiled attacks on Sonia Gandhi. “Sonia Gandhi is a lioness whom they are scared of,” he said.