AgustaWestland case National

Sonia, Rahul never interfered in any defence deal, says A.K. Antony

Former Defence Minister A K Antony speaking at a press conference at the Parliament in New Delhi on Monday.

Former Defence Minister A K Antony speaking at a press conference at the Parliament in New Delhi on Monday.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

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Former Defence Minister A.K. Antony on Monday said the Gandhi family never interfered in any defence deals during the UPA regime and accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government of pursuing “vendetta politics without an iota of truth.”

Mr. Antony accused the Modi government of using the investigative agencies to ‘manufacture lies’ and the BJP of ‘spreading lies.’

The Congress fielded Mr. Antony, known for his clean image, to defend the party’s leadership after the BJP stepped up its attack on the Gandhi family.

“I would like to say categorically that Sonia and Rahul never showed any interest... never interfered in the AgustaWestland deal. During my entire tenure as defence minister, they never interfered in any defence deals,” Mr. Antony told reporters.

“The Government and the BJP are misusing agencies to manufacture lies. I am surprised to know that the present government is spreading lies...is trying to manufacture something out of nothing,” he said.

The Congress and the BJP have been engaged in a bitter war of words since Saturday when the Enforcement Directorate told a Delhi court that Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam, had passed on a paper containing questions on “Mrs. Gandhi” to his counsel Aljo K Joseph, a former Youth Congress office-bearer.

While the ruling party accused the Congress of defending Mr. Michel for fear of getting exposed, the Congress hit back on Sunday to allege that the Modi government was AgustaWestland’s protectors and promoters.

Mr. Antony said if the Congress had anything to hide, it would not have ordered a CBI probe or gone to Milan in Italy to fight the case.

“When reports came in that there was corruption in the deal, I ordered the CBI investigation. We took the decision to fight the case in Milan. Ultimately, we won the case and got the entire money from bank guarantees and advance,” he said.

The former defence minister said the choice of AgustaWestland helicopters for VIP movements was purely a ‘professional decision’ taken by the Indian Air Force, Special Protection Group and the Defence Ministry.

“We cancelled the contract and started proceedings of blacklisting. But after we left, the Modi government did nothing against AgustaWestland. Instead of acting against the company, they favoured it,” he said.

Mr. Antony claimed that the BJP was trying to divert attention from the questions raised in the Rafale deal and avoid a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into it and that’s why it was raising the AgustaWestland case.

Asked to comment on the BJP allegation that the Congress was jittery since Mr. Michel’s extradition to India, Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala said, “This is a case of chor machaye shor (the thief is making noise).”

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 6:59:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sonia-rahul-never-interfered-in-any-defence-deal-says-a-k-antony/article25871407.ece

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