New Delhi, Feb. 13: The BJP today played on the Italian connect in the latest scam to beset the UPA, both to raise questions over Sonia Gandhi’s “role” and revive the Bofors bogey.
The main Opposition party demanded answers from Sonia, Manmohan Singh and A.K. Antony, the defence minister, on whether the Centre had “ever bothered” to approach the Italian government at the “highest level” to seek information on the purchase and supply of the AgustaWestland helicopters. Another point was whether the Italian ambassador had been summoned and “impressed on the urgency of the matter”.
The BJP said the country had the “right to know” who got the huge commissions allegedly paid by the firm and demanded the deal be frozen and then re-visited.
The party plans to raise the issue in Parliament’s budget session starting February 21, in concert with the Left and the other Opposition parties.
Party sources said the strategy was to put a “face” on corruption in its impending poll discourse. “Who better than the lady herself?” a source said, adding the BJP’s anti-corruption plank did not have the desired impact because “no really big name” had cropped up.
The stress on Italy in the statements of Ravi Shankar Prasad, the BJP’s chief spokesperson, was embedded in Sonia’s Italian origin and earlier allegations that Congress regimes had bailed out Ottavio Quattrocchi, the suspected conduit for kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal.
Prasad questioned the government’s “inability to act” on an issue that had surfaced in the media almost a year ago in March 2012.
“A very legitimate question arises because of the highly suspicious circumstances surrounding inaction was the fact that the company’s Italian connection had something to do with it. We all know how in the Bofors case, the Congress government sought to bail out Quattrocchi.”
Samajwadi Party sources said while they favoured a joint Opposition attack on corruption, the BJP’s personalised Sonia-centred articulation might not be “acceptable”.