AgustaWestland helicopter deal was initiated by NDA govt, says Cong

As opposition parties targeted the government over the alleged payment of kickbacks in the VVIP helicopter deal, the Congress sought to turn the table on the BJP suggesting that the purchase of helicopters had been proposed by the NDA regime. It also sought to take a high moral ground citing the government's "prompt" decision to order a CBI inquiry into the allegations.

"Our Defence Minister has handed it over to the CBI. Had it been NDA government, what would they have done? Can anyone be hanged without investigation? Purchase of Westland helicopters was proposed by the NDA regime," said Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh. He said the Italian government had found certain instances where commission or bribe had been paid. "The moment Government of India came to know, it set up a CBI investigation.... I will request the BJP to suggest what more can be done in this. No person can be hanged or punished without proper investigation and the CBI will investigate the case on its own," Singh said.

Party spokesman P C Chacko said the BJP is creating a "smokescreen of corruption" around defence deals. "The government is taking steps in the most transparent manner. But the opposition party is politicising it to make the forthcoming Parliament session stormy," he said.

"The idea (for the helicopters) came up in 2002 when the then defence minister George Fernandes visited Siachen. In 2003, the NDA government initiated it. Subsequently, negotiations were held," he said.

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