Special Correspondent

Party to give notice of privilege on Pranab's statement

NEW DELHI: The Bharatiya Janata Party on Saturday continued to demand the scrapping of the Scorpene submarine deal, undaunted by the threat of a criminal defamation suit from Abhishek Verma, the alleged middleman.

The party has refused to accept the statement in Parliament of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee that there was no scope for a middleman, since an "integrity clause" had been included in the agreement with Thales, the manufacturer of Scorpene, specifying that commissions would not be paid. Violation of that clause would lead to cancellation of the contract. In fact, party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar charged that the Government was "silent" despite serious charges being levelled.

When asked whether BJP leaders had given notice of privilege on the Defence Minister's statement, Mr. Javadekar said that this had not yet been done, but would be done.

The party claimed that it had provided details of the "money trail" in the deal and insisted that the disclosed e-mails between Thales and Mr. Verma were not fake or fabricated as alleged by Thales and the Government.