The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Allies not ready for Bofors burial

New Delhi, June 2: The Bofors gun has boomed again. But for the Congress, it’s more of a backfire.

A day after the party demanded an apology from all those who had vilified Rajiv Gandhi in the payoff scam, the CPM, one of its key allies at the Centre, and former Prime Minister V.P. Singh said the case should be revived.

On the other side of the divide, the BJP moved to drive a wedge between the Congress and its allies.

Singh, who resigned from Rajiv Gandhi’s cabinet after the scandal over the 1986 gun deal broke and later went on to become Prime Minister, said a joint parliamentary committee should probe the CBI’s “lapse” in failing to produce original documents as evidence.

He also demanded a probe into why the bureau “always failed to provide evidences as in the Jain hawala diary or Chandraswami cases”.

The BJP, which sensed an opportunity to create a rift between the Congress and its allies, said the leaders whose apology the party has sought ' though it did not name anyone ' should no longer support the coalition.

“Those who opposed the Congress government on the Bofors issue include (Lok Sabha Speaker) Somnath Chatterjee, (ministers) S. Jaipal Reddy and Laloo Prasad Yadav, V.P. Singh, the Left parties and many others and most of them are now either part of the Congress-led UPA or supporting it,” said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar. “They must come out on this apology demand.”

The Congress, the spokesperson added, should also explain if it can co-exist with partners who do not apologise.

The CPM slammed what it called “elementary errors”.

“It is surprising that after such a long investigation, such infirmities and elementary errors existed in preparing the case,” the politburo, the party’s highest decision-making body, said in a statement.

The gun deal, the party said, was “an important case highlighting corruption in high places” and added that “neither the CBI nor the judicial process in our country has been able to produce a verdict in all high-level corruption cases”.

“This has eroded the people’s faith that the system is incapable of bringing to book those who misuse public funds,” the politburo said. It demanded that the CBI “remove the infirmities in the case material and revive the case through appropriate legal process”.

Singh said there was no question of apologising as he had “never taken” Rajiv Gandhi’s name. “I have not made any personal charge against him. Even my government did not name him in the FIR,” the former Prime Minister told a news conference here.

“There is no need to offer apology for whatever is true. I did not say Rajiv Gandhi himself took money. Rather, those who have levelled allegations against him should offer apology,” he said.

Javadekar alleged that the then Congress government had allowed Ottavio Quattrocchi, the sole remaining accused after Delhi High Court quashed charges against the Hinduja brothers and the Bofors company, to flee the country and sought an apology from the ruling party for this.

He said the CBI should challenge the judgment in the Supreme Court as well as the January 4, 2004, verdict that cleared Rajiv Gandhi. “On the Bofors issue, the Congress is making a virtue out of corruption just to please the boss,” the BJP spokesperson said.

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