New Delhi: Describing the Italian chopper deal as one having the "makings of a second Bofors scam", BJP on Wednesday asked the government as to how long it will "protect" bribe-takers and said it will raise the issue strongly during the Budget Session of Parliament. The main opposition also demanded that the helicopter deal should be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine choppers be stopped till all doubts are cleared.
"It is a Bofors-like case. When bribe-giver has been caught, why can't the bribe-taker be identified. Till when will the Indian government save the bribe-takers. BJP will raise the issue seriously in the Budget Session of Parliament and seek a reply from the government to identify who the bribe-takers are and who are protecting them," Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters.
His colleague and party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "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?"
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 Augusta Westland 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.
BJP demanded that the Rs 3,500-crore deal be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine of the 12 choppers be stopped till the issue is probed thoroughly. Jaitley also charged CBI with trying to "cover up" rather than uncover a case through investigations.
"This a very serious matter...Immediate action in this matter is required," he said. The main opposition party also accused Antony of giving an incorrect statement in Parliament about the VVIP chopper deal and said he should clarify it 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.
Alleging that the government had initiated action in the chopper deal only after the arrest of Finmeccanica chief Giuseppe Orsi, Prasad said it was not difficult for Indian government to get information from Italian authorities about the 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 maintained that during the UPA government's rule, there have been other discrepancies in defence deals while citing the example of Tatra trucks. The party said a series of scams during the UPA government's tenure was sending across a message to the world that one could get any deal done in India by paying bribes.