Opposition alleges cover up in Bofors case
New Delhi: Armed with fresh details in the 25-year-old Bofors scandal, an aggressive Opposition on Thursday disrupted Parliament, alleging "cover up" and demanding a new probe by a judicial commission.
Opposition members, particularly those from BJP and Left, raked up the issue in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, saying the Bofors chapter was not closed yet, leading to clashes with ruling members and affecting pre-lunch sittings severely.
In the Lok Sabha, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh raised the issue, saying it was "a saga of continuing corruption" and a "thorn" which needed to be removed.
He demanded setting up of a judicial commission to probe the issue even as he admitted to failure of the NDA government, in which he was External Affairs Minister, to get accused Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi extradited to India.
Without naming Rajiv Gandhi, who had faced the allegations of pay-offs in the 155 MM gun deal in 1986, Singh said the Congress would be "feeling the absence" of the late Prime Minister and a "promising" individual in the polity was lost.
As UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi watched, Singh said the party should get into the causes of the mistake because of which it paid a heavy political price.
CPI(M) leader Basudeb Acharia also demanded reopening of the case, institution of an independent inquiry and extradition of Quattrocchi.
In the Rajya Sabha, which saw three adjournments, Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley alleged that "there were repeated efforts to cover up" the scandal but refrained from naming any party or individual.
"There were repeated efforts to cover up. The pace of investigation varied with the colour of the political government in power...We gave a whole burial to the case," Jaitley said.
"....The fact is clear. Somebody got the contract and
somebody got the kickback....This man (Quattrocchi) is so powerful. Entire Indian state appeared so helpless....This is a textbook illustration of fraud," Jaitley said.
Congress members countered the allegations in both the Houses leading to clashes.
"The correct weapon was acquired, it was acquired in a wrong manner .... You (Congress) have paid, we have paid. The nation continues to pay," said Jaswant Singh.
"Till you don't remove this thorn, poison will continue to spread. ... Whatever is happening in the defence sector today is because of this episode. It is a saga of continuing corruption. In matters of corruption, there is no closure," he said.
Admitting that the NDA had failed to get Quattrocchi extradited after his arrest in Malaysia, Singh said, "Many will say why did you not do it. You have failed, we have failed. But don't consider our failure as your success."
Observing that it gave him "no delight" to raise this issue, he said, "25 years have passed but the storm of Bofors refuses to subside and the guns continue to blaze."
Reminding Congress about the political cost, he said, the reason behind Congress being reduced from its "historic" victory of 404 seats in Lok Sabha in 1984 to 114 in the next elections was Bofors pay-offs deal.
Singh posed a series of questions on the matter and asked why the Indian investigating teams which went to Sweden did not meet their Swedish counterparts probing the matter.
He claimed that Quattrocchi was "permitted through government connivance to escape from Delhi".
He sought to know why "political" donations were paid to the account of AE Services, a company owned by the Italian businessman. "How can it (donations) be political in nature when it went to a businessman. We all know he worked for Snam Progetti and what happened in it. We must know what his political purpose was," he said.