Open to JPC on VVIP chopper deal: Government

Government on Tuesday expressed readiness for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe, saying it has nothing to hide and "our hands are very clean".

Updated: Feb 20, 2013, 00:29 AM IST

New Delhi: As the Opposition geared up to rake up chopper scam during the upcoming Budget session, the government on Tuesday expressed readiness for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe, saying it has nothing to hide and "our hands are very clean".

Defence Minister A K Antony, who is at the centre of the attack, ruled out his resignation and said he was prepared to explain everything in Parliament.

"We are open for a Joint Parliamentary Committee if this satisfies everybody," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told a press conference when asked whether the government would accept the demand for a JPC probe into the chopper deal.

Nath insisted that the government was "neither afraid nor hesitant" on discussion on any issue during the three-month long session of Parliament beginning Thursday.

The minister, who held meeting with chief whips of various political parties today, said the government had got a "flavour" of the issues including the chopper deal, hanging of Afzal Guru, price rise, land acquisition, food security, planned to be raised during the session.

He also rejected the BJP charge that Antony had misled Parliament on the issue of purchase of 12 AgustaWestland choppers for VVIPs and that his style of functioning has resulted in the alleged scam.

"Antony did not mislead Parliament. What does the BJP want Mr Antony to do? Work as per their style? Thank goodness he does not work as per their style. God knows what would have happened had he worked as per their style," he said.

On his part, Antony said, "I will do my duty. I am now getting ready for the Parliament session. We will explain everything to Parliament. We have nothing to hide. Our hands are very clean."

He said he was "sad and upset" over the row which had erupted despite all precautions having been taken. "Now we are preparing to face Parliament."

BJP president Rajnath Singh said his party will raise the
issue of chopper scam in Parliament forcefully.

"I am demanding a comprehensive investigation into this helicopter scam. Whoever is guilty should be punished," he said.

His party colleague Yashwant Sinha said, "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."

Reacting to BJP?s allegations that the Defence Ministry was "sleeping" over the reports of corruption in the Rs 3,600 crore deal for 12 VVIP choppers, Antony said, "I cannot wake up anybody who is sleeping".

The Defence Ministry had started taking action on the issue from day one when first media reports in this regard came in, he said.

He insisted that there were no differences between different ministries on the process of scrapping the deal and the whole government was working together.

He regretted that despite blacklisting six firms in one scam for which he was accused of slowing down modernisation, such an incident has happened as "there was no end to human greed and still greedy people were working around the world."

He said in the procurement process for the choppers, all wings of the Government including the Ministry, IAF and SPG had followed all the procedures.

"In spite of that one thing is clear that something happened somewhere.

It is the decision of the government that we must get to the root of the controversy to find out the truth and must find out the culprits. And whosoever is responsible, must be brought to justice at the earliest and then ensure maximum punishment. It is the resolve of the entire government," he said.

"We are also awaiting the return of our official and the CBI team. We will proceed as per law but we will not show any mercy towards anyone," he said.

Asked about the reason for series of actions taken by the
government in the last one week after it waited for one year for details from Italy and the UK, Antony said, "When the report came that the CEO of the company (Finmeccanica) was arrested, we decided to refer the matter to the CBI."

Last Tuesday, Finmeccanica CEO Giueseppe Orsi and AgustaWestland CEO Bruno Spagnolini were arrested by Italian investigators in connection with the alleged scam in which Rs 362 crore have been allegedly paid as kickbacks.

With regard to Shinde`s controversial "Hindu terror" remark which has angered BJP, Nath steered clear of questions on whether the Home Minister would apologise in Parliament.

"Certainly, I am not saying he will apologise or not apologise. Let the issue come before Parliament. Let there be discussion. Let us see," he said.

In an oblique attack on the BJP, which has threatened to disrupt Parliament if Shinde did not apologise, Nath said Parliament does not belong to any one political party. It belongs to all political parties.

The BJP top brass, which met here this morning, decided to strongly protest against Shinde, who is also Leader of the Lok Sabha, during the Budget Session till he tenders an apology for his Hindu terror remark.

The party called a meeting of NDA tomorrow to give a final shape to the plans.

After the meeting of the Executive Committee BJP Parliamentary Party, 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."