Moments after the Congress went on the offensive against the BJP, accusing it of weaving a “web of lies” in the AgustaWestland case, the party was left red-faced when a lawyer from its youth wing appeared in the CBI court for Christian Michel James, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore chopper deal.
The party quickly swung into damage-control mode with the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) announcing that it has expelled the lawyer, Aljo K Joseph, “with immediate effect”. Joseph, meanwhile, told ANI that his ties with the party and his profession are “separate”. Read in Malayalam
Claiming that Joseph appeared for Michel “in his personal capacity”, an IYC spokesperson said in a statement: “He did not consult the Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC does not endorse such actions. IYC has
removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Department and expelled him from the party with immediate effect.”
Joseph, who claims to be the national in-charge of the Youth Congress’s legal department, was involved in training Congress workers and candidates in Madhya Pradesh in the run-up to the assembly polls. After arguing Michel’s case, he reached the Congress headquarters on Akbar Road to meet Deepak Babaria, AICC general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Babaria said: “He used to help us in preparing material for training our workers and candidates on EVMs and other poll-related activities. Tomorrow, we have convened a meeting of candidates in Bhopal to brief them on the procedures for counting day. I had called him to brief me on Election Commission guidelines.”
On Joseph appearing for Michel, Babaria said: “He told me he was getting the brief….it was a professional assignment.”
When contacted, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: “We (Congress) have nothing to do with it. I don’t know the person and I have no knowledge about it… this is for the IYC to say.”
Speaking to ANI, Joseph said: “I am an actively practicing advocate. I appeared for him (Michel) in my professional capacity… It has nothing to do with the Congress. One of my friends, who was having some Dubai connections…through him, the lawyer in Italy had requested it. So I was just helping in appearing and assisting him in this matter.”
In Hyderabad, meanwhile, Congress president Rahul Gandhi raised the Rafale fighter jet deal while deflecting questions on the AgustaWestland case. “Congress has made its position very, very clear on this matter earlier in a press conference. The Prime Minister should explain why he gave Rs 30,000 crore on Rafale to Anil Ambani,” he said.
Issuing a statement, Surjewala said the BJP was misleading the nation in the chopper case. He alleged that Prime Minister Narendra was making a “loud noise” to hide “his own misdeeds”.
According to Surjewala, the UPA had cancelled the contract for purchasing 12 helicopters in February 2013 following media reports and handed over the case to the CBI. In 2014, he said, the UPA initiated proceedings to blacklist AgustaWestland and its parent company Finmecanica, encashed bank guarantees worth Rs 240 crore and filed a case against the company in Italy.