New Delhi: Describing the Italian chopper deal as one having the "makings of a second Bofors scam", the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday sought to know why the government has not taken any action on the matter till now and said it will raise the issue strongly during the Budget Session of Parliament. The main Opposition also demanded the helicopter deal be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine choppers be stopped till all doubts are cleared.
"This deal raises a serious question. There was one gentleman Ottavio Quattrochhi from Italy who was involved in the Bofors scam. Several attempts were made to protect him. This helicopter company is also from Italy. Was this a factor in no probe being done in the matter for the past one year?" BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Though BJP did not spell out its strategy on the issue, Prasad said the party will raise this matter strongly inside and outside Parliament. "I see the making of a second Bofors in this scam. The government has not been able to explain why it was silent for one year on this issue despite the details being available in the public domain," Prasad said.
He came down heavily on Defence Minister AK Antony, saying he should have called the Italian Ambassador to discuss the reports of financial irregularities in the Rs 3,546 crore AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal. "Why did Antony not write to the Italian Defence Minister or send a delegation to Italy to get more details?" Prasad said.
The main Opposition further alleged that Antony had given an incorrect statement in Parliament about the VVIP chopper deal and he should clarify this in the House. In reply to a question from BJP MP Prakash Javadekar, Antony had said in Parliament that upon his ministry's request, the External Affairs Ministry has taken up the matter with the Italian and UK governments to get further details.
Prasad maintained that it was not difficult for the Indian government to get information from the Italian authorities about the deal and take appropriate action. BJP said that it is only after the arrest of Finmeccanica Chief Giuseppe Orsi that the Indian government took note of the anomalies in the chopper deal.
"UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should clarify why there is corruption in every department of this government. There has been a loot in every department- be it telecom, coal or defence," Prasad said.
He alleged that Congress is encouraging crony capitalism. He maintained that during the UPA government's rule there have been other discrepancies in defence deals and gave the example of the Tatra truck deal.
Asked about former Air Chief's SP Tyagi's contention that controversial changes in the deal were made during NDA regime, he said, "Tyagi's comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. His role should be probed. His relatives are reported to be involved."
He insisted that no commission was paid and no choppers bought during NDA rule. "NDA government did not order the supply of the choppers," he said. BJP was also not impressed with the CBI inquiry ordered by the government, saying "everybody has seen how seriously the investigative agency has been allowed to work". The main Opposition said the series of scams in the UPA government were sending across a message to the world that one can get any deal in India by paying bribes.