Congress welcomes chopper deal probe
New Delhi, Feb 13 : The Congress Wednesday welcomed the CBI probe into the purchase of 12 VVIP helicopters, even as the opposition, including the BJP and the Left, slammed the United Progressive Alliance government at the centre over corruption.
The defence ministry Tuesday ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into the USD 750 million deal for 12 VVIP AgustaWestland helicopters, following the arrest, in Italy, of its manufacturer Finmeccanica's chief on charges of graft.
"Our defence minister has handed it (the probe) over to CBI. Had it been the NDA government, what would they have done? Can anyone be hanged without investigation," Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh asked reporters.
Singh said the purchase of AugustaWestland helicopters was proposed during the regime of the National Democratic Alliance at the centre.
"Second, it is the best helicopter available in this sector; third, it was bought at an extremely competitive price in the sector," Singh said.
The BJP compared the controversial AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal with the Bofors scam of the 1990s, which led to the defeat of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. The BJP also questioned the delay in ordering a probe into the purchase of the helicopters.
"I see a second Bofors in the making. Why was there silence and inaction for one year, when there was proper evidence? (Defence Minister) A.K. Antony had better explain how delivery of the helicopters was allowed when there was evidence that commission was paid, which is illegal," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
In the Bofors scandal of the late 1980s and early 1990s, several Congress leaders were accused of receiving kickbacks from Swedish firm Bofors AB for a bid to supply India 155 mm field howitzer guns.
Prasad slammed the Congress-led UPA government, saying that scams were being uncovered in every department.
"Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, please explain why is there a scam in every department of government, whether 2G, CWG (commonwealth Games), coal..." he said.
The CPI urged the defence ministry to clean up the system.
"There should be some transparency. The defence ministry must clean up the system and evolve a kind of mechanism which becomes more transparent, more accountable and answerable to parliament and the people of the country," Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said.