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UPA offers JPC probe as BJP plans to raise copter deal in Parliament

The Bharatiya Janata Party said on Tuesday it will strongly raise in Parliament the allegation of payment of bribes in the VVIP chopper deal and ask for a reply from the government on whether the contract stood scrapped and who were the ultimate beneficiaries.

The executive committee meeting of BJP’s parliamentary party, chaired by LK Advani, decided to raise the issue in Parliament in a major way, while party president Rajnath Singh demanded a comprehensive investigation into the deal, saying anyone found guilty should be punished.

‘I am demanding a comprehensive investigation into this helicopter scam. Whoever is guilty should be punished,’ Singh told reporters here.

Party leader Yashwant Sinha said, ‘We will raise this issue in Parliament and raise it strongly and ask for a discussion. The government will have to come out with the truth, not only about whether the deal has been cancelled or deal is on, but who is the ultimate beneficiary of the kickbacks.’

He said there have been ‘differing voices’ from various sources in the government and it was not clear as to whether the deal was on or stood cancelled.

‘We are not even sure whether the deal has been scrapped or not. Because information is coming out of the government itself that the Prime Minister is very unhappy at the fact that the deal is sought to be cancelled. The external affairs minister has gone on record to say that the deal should not be cancelled,’ Sinha said.

After the executive committee meeting of its parliamentary party at Advani’s residence, BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, ‘There is a scam in this government before every session of Parliament. Earlier, it was the coal allocation scam and now the helicopter scam....’

‘The ministers in this government are speaking in different voices on the scam. While the defence minister is saying we will scrap the deal, the external affairs minister is against it,’ he said.


NOTHING TO HIDE ON COPTER DEAL, SAYS ANTONY

The government has nothing to hide in the VVIP chopper controversy and is prepared for a discussion in parliament, said defence minister A K Antony here on Tuesday. He also refuted reports about his resignation.

‘Our hands are very clean and we have nothing to worry. The government has nothing to hide. We will explain everything to parliament,’ Antony told reporters.

He denied any rift in the government on the scrapping of the chopper deal.

‘There are no differences. The government is acting together,’ he said and added that the issue was being handled by the defence ministry for the present.

Antony said his ministry had sought assistance of External Affairs Ministry concerning the controversies in the deal whenever required and there was no lack of coordination.

He said decisions about defence procurement in the country were not political. ‘It is according to defence procurement procedure.’

He said the government will proceed according to law and will not show mercy to people who were guilty of alleged kickbacks in the $750 million (Rs.3,600 crore) VVIP chopper deal.

‘(We) must find out the truth, must find out the culprits and they must be brought to law,’ Antony said, adding that the government would get to the root of the controversy.

A team of CBI and defence ministry officials left for Italy Monday to get more information on the alleged kickbacks in chopper deal.

The defence ministry had last week initiated action for cancellation of the chopper contract.

It also issued a formal show-cause notice to AgustaWestland to explain within a week why the contract should not be cancelled. The matter came to light after Italian agencies arrested Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi for suspected corruption to seal the deal.


KAMAL NATH URGES PARTIES TO LET PARLIAMENT RUN

Apprehending the opposition will disrupt parliament over issues like the chopper deal, land bill, food security bill, price rise and hanging of Afzal Guru, the government Tuesday urged all political parties to ensure it functions smoothly.

‘I urged all parties that members come not to obstruct parliament but to ensure it works,’ parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said. The budget session of parliament starts on 21 February. Kamal Nath, who met chief whips of various political parties earlier in the day, said the opposition would want to discuss controversial issues like the AgustaWestland chopper deal, land acquisition bill, food security bill, price rise of food items, and the hanging of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. ‘Our effort will be to find convergence...we have a lot of business at hand and there is time constraint...We hope to do substantial business in the session,’ he said.
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