Describing the AgustaWestland helicopter deal as one having the "makings of a second Bofors scam", BJP today asked the government as to how long it will "protect" bribe-takers and said it will raise the issue strongly during the Budget Session of Parliament - the Rajiv Gandhi government was put in the dock by former PM V P Singh for alleged bribes paid.
The main opposition also demanded that the helicopter deal should be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine choppers be stopped till all doubts are cleared.
"It is a Bofors-like case. When bribe-giver has been caught, why can't the bribe-taker be identified. Till when will the Indian government save the bribe-takers,” said the party – after years of meandering through Indian and foreign courts, no proof was found to nail the alleged bribe-takers or givers in the gun deal.
"BJP will raise the issue seriously in the Budget Session of Parliament and seek a reply from the government to identify who the bribe-takers are and who are protecting them," Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley told reporters here.
His colleague and party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "This deal raises a serious question. There was one gentleman Ottavio Quattrochhi from Italy who was involved in the Bofors scam. Several attempts were made to protect him. This helicopter company is also from Italy. Was this a factor in no probe being done in the matter for the past one year?"
Though BJP did not spell out its strategy on the issue, Prasad said the party will raise this matter strongly inside and outside Parliament.
"I see the making of a second Bofors in this scam. The government has not been able to explain why it was silent for one year on this issue despite the details being available in the public domain," Prasad said.
He came down heavily on Defence Minister A K Antony, saying he should have called the Italian Ambassador to discuss the reports of financial irregularities in the Augusta Westland VVIP chopper deal. "Why did Antony not write to the Italian Defence Minister or send a delegation to Italy to get more details?" Prasad said.
BJP demanded that the Rs 3,500-crore deal be reviewed and the supply of the remaining nine of the 12 choppers be stopped till the issue is probed thoroughly.