Union minister Smriti Irani asked the Congress to come clean on the involvement of its leaders in the Bofors scandal, citing claims of a private investigator involved in the probe.
Irani said the Congress’s leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, were too eager to grab undue benefits, whether be it an air ticket upgrade or a scam like the Bofors. Recently, there were reports that fugitive arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari bought business-class flight tickets for Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra.
Quoting from Michael Hershman’s interviews to some media houses, Irani said the detective was asked by then Finance Minister V P Singh to look into the Bofors deal but was later offered a bribe and then given death threats when he stumbled on evidence of corruption. The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi shifted Singh to the defence ministry, while Hershman was also asked to implicate the former Finance Minister.
Quoting Hershman, she said the owner of Pakistan-run Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which had been allegedly involved in money laundering, or his representative met Rajiv Gandhi with a large suitcase. Following this, the bank, which was shut after a CBI raid in connection with the Bofors deal, was allowed to reopen and its detained officials were released, she said.
“Who were offering bribe? Why did a Congress leader (Rajiv Gandhi) choose to silence his own minister (Singh)? For too long the Congress has kept conveniently quiet. It is time that it answers as to what was the role of Congress leaders then and now,” she asked.
The Information and Broadcasting Minister said Congress had a tendency to either bribe or give death threats to people looking into dubious deals involving its leaders. “Hershman’s interviews have brought to life the ‘sordid saga’ of Bofors,” she said.
However, Irani parried queries when asked about then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s 100 trips in private chartered flights. She said the Congress should have filed a defamation suit against Hershman if it believed he was wrong, similar to what Jay Shah, son of BJP chief Amit Shah, had done after ‘The Wire’ published a story claiming that the turnover of his company grew 16,000 times after the saffron party came to power in 2014.
In the press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra cited the party’s victory in 1,311 seats against 312 of the Congress in Maharashtra local body polls to claim that people had rejected the opposition’s narrative against the Modi government. “For the BJP, the party is family and for the Congress, the family is party,” he said.