Antony says no rift, govt offers JPC probe

FP

The government Tuesday said that it was open to a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the VVIP helicopter deal, even as Defence Minister A K Antony denied there was any rift in the establishment over the future of the contract which now seems set to be cancelled after being clouded by corruption allegations.

Anticipating that the opposition would go on the offensive over the latest scandal to hit the UPA government during the Budget session of Parliament due to begin Thursday, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath sought to defuse the issue saying the government is agreeable to a JPC probe.

"We are open to any probe, including by a Joint Parliamentary Committee, if it satisfies all," Nath told a press conference. "The government is neither afraid nor hesitant to discuss any issue under the rules."

The minister said he had met with the chief whips of parties on Tuesday and had got an idea of the issues on their minds they included the chopper deal, the hanging of Afzal Guru, inflation, land acquisition and the Food Security Bill.

Nath rejected the opposition BJP's allegation that Antony had misled Parliament over the chopper deal.

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

Nath's JPC probe offer came as Antony said there was no rift within the government on the future of the helicopter contract. But he said that it was clear that "something happened somewhere" despite his ministry "taking all precautions".

Reiterating that no "mercy" would be shown to those found guilty of wrongdoing, Antony said a decision on the future of the deal would be taken after the government received a report from the CBI on the allegations of corruption and hiring of middlemen by Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland.

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