‘Impression did exist that if anyone wanted to do business with India, they had to come through a particular family’
Bharatiya Janata Party national general secretary and Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the U.S. diplomatic cables’ claim on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was “certainly an evidence of the fact that an impression did exist in New Delhi in the 1970s that if anyone wanted to do business with India, they had to come through a particular family”.
Mr. Jaitley made these remarks while replying to queries by journalists, who sought his comments on the revelations in the latest tranche of the U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and accessed by The Hindu as part of an investigative collaboration. These cables have claimed that before becoming the Prime Minister, Mr. Gandhi may have been the main negotiator for a massive aircraft deal for a Swedish company which reportedly considered his family connections valuable.
Referring to this, Mr. Jaitley said: “These are contemporaneous cables giving the impressions that the American diplomats formed at that time. There can be a contention that it is or is not proved, but it is certainly evidence of the fact that an impression did exist in New Delhi in the 1970s that if anyone wanted to do business with India, you had to come through a particular family. These cables are unequivocal in that direction”.
The cables had claimed that Rajiv Gandhi might have been a middleman for Swedish firm Saab-Scania when it was trying to sell its Viggen fighter aircraft to India in the 1970s.
To another query on the increasing political influence of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and whether the BJP was waiting for the Congress to declare Rahul Gandhi as its Prime Ministerial candidate before it named its own, he said the matter “was a debate between individuals”.
“I am not going to get into [it]. But the fact that Mr. Modi is an extremely popular leader and that his views are being heard with great attention and scrutiny by a very large section of Indians is itself self-evident,” he said.