New Delhi, Oct. 10: Seeking to drag the President’s name into the Barak deal, George Fernandes today said he had okayed the missile purchase only after A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, then scientific adviser to the defence minister, asked him to go ahead.
“In so far as Barak is concerned, if they have to make any charge, then it should start with the President, who first called for it (the missile system), asked for it, before I went into the government,” the former defence minister said.
The reaction came shortly after the CBI filed an FIR naming Fernandes as an accused in a corruption case in the Barak missile deal with Israel.
The BJP, too, lost no time in defending Fernandes. “The Congress is known for vindictive politics. They targeted George Fernandes on coffin-gate and then filed an affidavit supporting him in the court. This may also be an act of vindictiveness by the Congress,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javdekar said.
Fernandes was much more aggressive. “He (Kalam) said this (missile system) is needed and that is how it came. Otherwise, it wouldn’t have come.”
He also attacked Congress president Sonia Gandhi, alleging she was “behind the Tehelka sting operation and wanted to implicate me”.
“I am not afraid of getting arrested if it (the CBI) has some concrete evidence against me.”
Asserting he had nothing to do with the irregularities or corruption, Fernandes alleged that the CBI probe into the defence deals were being made on directions from Sonia.
“The Barak missile system had been shortlisted even before I became the defence minister. When navy started pressing me for these missiles, I consulted the then scientific adviser to the defence minister, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. He said the missile system was good and then I okayed it,” Fernandes said.
“It was my duty to give what navy wanted.”
On Jaya Jaitly being named in the FIR, he said: “Whom did she contact' This is injustice against her.”
Challenging Sonia to prove the charges against him and Jaitly, he said: “If she (Sonia) thinks she can spoil my political career and reputation, I will not allow her to do that.”
Asked if the FIR was part of a political vendetta, he said: “It is not just political vendetta. Those behind it are mad people.”
Fernandes also sent a letter to Kalam demanding the dismissal of the UPA government for alleged corruption, citing an international anti-graft watchdog report.
Former navy chief Sushil Kumar also denied the charges against him. “I am shocked and surprised. The missile defence system project was with the navy for years before I took over as chief,” Kumar told Reuters.