VVIP chopper scam: Tell names of bribe takers, BJP to Congress

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Minister of Communications & Information Tecnology, Uday Shankar, CEO, Star Network during the inaugural session of FICCI Frames 2016 in Mumbai on Wednesday (pic:
BJP on Tuesday used the conviction of Italian officials linked to the VVIP chopper scam to target the Congress and asked the then Defence Minister A K Antony to name the party leaders allegedly involved in the scandal.

The party wanted to know who were the bribe takers after those who gave the bribe were convicted by an Italian court.

Addressing a press conference, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Antony had in March 2013 said corruption had taken places in the purchase of VVIP choppers and that bribe had been taken. He asked Antony to come clean on it.

"Bribe givers have been convicted. Why are bribe takers silent? Antony should answer if leaders of Congress are involved in it or not. Are they from your party or not? Please come out clean," he said.

He said the treasury benches will use the issue to attack Congress in Parliament. The chopper scam is not an isolated case of graft and "corruption is the byword of UPA-I and UPA-II".

Prasad said today's attack on Congress was only the "first chapter" as top BJP leaders, including its chief Amit Shah and Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu, huddled together to mull over their next move.

The top BJP leaders, sources said, deliberated on various issues and fine tuned their strategy to attack the main opposition party during Parliament session.

Antony's honesty is discussed and the senior Congress leader himself speaks about, he said wryly, and asked him to go public with the names of "guilty" party leaders.

Quoting from the Italian court's order Prasad said, "There was reasonable belief that corruption had taken place and it was validly proven that 10-15 million dollars made way to Indian officials".

Prasad accused the UPA government of stalling the CBI probe into the chopper scam, claiming that it did not let the investigation agency examine the then National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and SPG chief B V Wanchoo and that they were quizzed only after the NDA came to power.

The probe by the CBI and ED has now gathered pace, he said, adding that the secrecy clause, which prevented Italian prosecutors from sharing information with the CBI, is no longer relevant following the conviction.

When asked why he was not naming Congress leaders allegedly involved in the scam, he said, "It was the first chapter today", indicating that the party will escalate its attack on Congress in the coming days.

The UPA government had signed a deal with Agusta Westland for purchase of 12 helicopters to ferry VVIPs but it was scrapped after reports appeared in Italy that the firm had paid kickbacks to Indian officials to clinch the deal. CBI began probing the case in 2013.

BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi should come out with a clarification over the alleged mention of her name in the Italian court's order.

"Her government was the champion of corruption. She must issue a clarification over the mention of her name by the court," he told the media.

Prasad also attacked former Home Minister P Chidambaram over the change in Ishrat Jahan affidavit. He asked the senior Congress leader if there was a political agenda in omitting reference to her LeT links in the second affidavit filed in the alleged fake encounter killing case which found mention in the first affidavit.

"Did you order changing the affidavit? Did you bypass, ignore the then Home Secretary and other officials in the Ministry?" he asked.

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