Sonia hits back, says 'not afraid' of AgustaWestland inquiry

World Wednesday 27/April/2016 21:05 PM
By: Times News Service
Sonia hits back, says 'not afraid' of AgustaWestland inquiry

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday rejected as "baseless" allegations linking her and party leaders to bribes in the AgustaWestland chopper deal and said she is not "afraid" of being "cornered" on the issue.
She asked the government what it has been doing in power for the last two years on the issue and demanded that the ongoing inquiry be completed impartially.
"I am not afraid of anyone cornering me as there is no basis to that. All the accusations they are throwing at us are false," Sonia told reporters in Parliament complex as BJP sought to target her on the deal.
"Where are the proofs. They are lying. They are part of a strategy of character assassination which we have known these people indulge in," Sonia said.
Referring to the Modi government, Sonia asked what has it been doing over the last two years.
"The government is there for the last 2 years. What are they doing? Inquiry is there, why don't they complete it? Complete it as soon as possible, impartially," she added.
Sonia's's political secretary and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel also rubbished the allegations against him and the party as "absolutely baseless."
"This government, when they are saying all these things outside and inside the Parliament, why can't they investigate," Patel said.
"If there is something against me, they should find out and they should hang me," he said when asked by reporters for his reactions over the allegations.
The comments of Sonia Gandhi and Patel come in the backdrop of BJP move to target the Congress president and other party leaders on the issue of bribes in the AugustaWestland chopper deal during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime in a bid to corner the main opposition party which has been paralysing Rajya Sabha on the Uttarakhand affair.
Meanwhile, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday challenged the Congress to show the UPA government order blacklisting the Anglo-Italian helicopter maker AgustaWestland in connection with the VVIP chopper scam. Parrikar, who said that he will speak in detail in Parliament on the issue in the near future, informed that the ministry has received a copy of the Italian court order and is in the process of translating it into English. He said that the process might take 8-10 days.
Parrikar also took a dig at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying translation from Italian was not easy, "at least for the ruling side. May not be a difficult task for the opposition".
A combative Parrikar hit back when asked about Congress' allegation that while United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had blacklisted the company, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government removed it from the blacklist.
"When did they blacklist? Ask them first. Ask them what date the order was issued? Show me the copy of the order," the minister said.
Asked if he meant that the firm was never blacklisted, he said, "I am not saying that".
Interestingly, in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on February 5, 2014, the then defence minister A. K. Antony, while giving details on AgustaWestland, had said, "No decision has been taken till date to debar the said company".This runs contrary to what the Congress has been claiming because the reply came just months ahead of the regime change.
However, records of state-run HAL show that Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK, Finmeccanica, Italy and its group of companies, including subsidiaries and affiliates, IDS Tunisia and Infotech Design System (IDS), Mauritius, were blacklisted on July 3, 2014, when National Democratic Alliance was in power, because of the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) case against them to inquire into alleged criminal wrongdoing in the procurement of VVIP helicopters.
Hitting back at Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the VVIP chopper deal, Congress had on Tuesday alleged that AgustaWestland was "removed" from the blacklisted category by the Modi dispensation.
Congress leader and former Union Minister Anand Sharma had 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."