As the BJP’s onslaught against the Congress over the AgustaWestland chopper deal continued, former defence minister A K Antony Sunday hit out at the ruling party, saying “the deviation” in the tender process for purchasing the VVIP helicopters started in 2003 during the BJP-led NDA rule under the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The senior Congress leader also accused the Narendra Modi government of trying to create a smokescreen into the whole episode. “You (Prime Minister Modi) are ruling the nation. Take action. Complete the probe at the earliest. Punish the bribe-givers and bribe-takers,” he said.
When asked if he was prepared for questioning by the Enforcement Directorate, he said: “Don’t show any mercy towards me. Whatever action can be taken as per law, take it.”
Speaking to the mediapersons here while campaigning for the party in poll-bound Kerala, Antony narrated the chronology of events leading to the selection of AgustaWestland for supplying VVIP helicopters. “The Brajesh Mishra-chaired meeting in 2003 decided to reduce the operational requirement to 4,500 metre height. That meeting also decided to make 1.80 metre cabin height mandatory for the helicopter. The decision helped AgustaWestland to participate in the tender process. The deviation started there…then,” Antony said.
He said that as defence minister he became suspicious about the chopper deal when he observed the proceedings of a case in an Italian court.