Manohar Parrikar warns Congress in Lok Sabha: What we could not do in Bofors, may be we can do it in AgustaWestland

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday made a statement in the Lok Sabha on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam controversy.

Manohar parrikar
Parrikar had discussed the issue of choosing strategic partners, including their selection criteria, before formulating the final policy. He had decided in that meeting “to have focussed meetings with smaller group for selected platforms”. (Reuters)

In an aggressive attack on the Congress, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Friday said, “What we could not do in Bofors, may be we can do it in AgustaWestland. Parrikar on Friday made a statement in the Lok Sabha on the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper scam controversy.

In a point-by-point answer to Congress, Parrikar accused the UPA government of favouring AgustaWestland and then ensuring the speedy investigation in the matter should not take place. “Contract termination was a forced action and not a proactive step,” Parrikar accused. (Also read: Parrikar in Rajya Sabha: 8 points he made)

There is a saying, “Behti ganga mein haath dhona. Ab yeh ganga kahan beh ke jaa rahi thi, yeh toh Rajya Sabha mein pata chal gaya.” “Tyagi, Khaitan are small people; we have to find the big names who received kickbacks,” Parrikar added.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:29 PM: All defence products from China are banned. Does that stop me from buying their smartphones? No. So if a company is making civilian helicopters, then as Defence Minister I cannot stop it from selling to India or participating in ‘Make in India’.

Congress is not talking sense when it questions on participation in Make in India.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:26 PM: I want to assure everyone that all deals with Finmeccanica for any defence product are currently on hold

Manohar Parrikar at 2:24 PM: You compromised with the safety of VVIPs and the President because you wanted to make money.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:22 PM: I am not saying that the helicopter is not capable. I think that UPA should have kept the safety of VVIPs as the top most priority, which they did not.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:17 PM: In July 2014, at the Airport Office 2, where all records are placed, a mysterious fire destroyed all files.  The purpose of the fire was obviously not solved, because three files were locked inside a drawer and were saved from the fire.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:14 PM: I am placing on the floor of the house documents that prove that UPA government changed the cabin height requirement height to at least 1.8 metre.

Manohar Parrikar at 2:11 PM:  You want me to take names, I will take names. I have the courage, but I want to go by Parliament practises.  This process of helicopter procurement started in 1994, not 1999. However the process got delayed. That’s the first fact that I want to tell the house.

TMC’s Saugata Roy at 2:00 PM: Have the bribes been recovered? You (NDA) should have recovered it by now: A question to Defence Minister. What action has been taken in one and a half years, tell us specific instances. How many names of political leaders have been mentioned in the Italian court and will you take action?

Manohar Parrikar at 1:43 PM: I want authenticated documents on what Scindia is quoting. These things have already been denied on the floor of the house.

Jyotiraditya Scindia at 1:38 PM: You are scared of Sonia Gandhi, and you should be. Because she is a tigress, and she will make you repent.

Jyotiraditya Scindia at 1:37 PM: When both Eurofighter and Rafale qualified for the fighter jet deal, why did you agree to buy 36 jets off the shelf? Why have you agreed to pay such a high price for the Rafale jets.

Jyotiraditya Scindia at 1:35 PM: When we agreed to the deal with AgustaWestland, it was not blacklisted. But now, you have invited it to Make in India. You are giving it FIPB clearance. Your leaders call it a bogus company, yet you are inviting it to ‘Make in India’.

Jyotiraditya Scindia at 1:22 PM: The fact is that the proceedings for the deal started in 1999. In 2003, they changed the chopper height to 4,500 metre. It was not our government, but NDA’s. As far as the investigation goes, we ensured it was speedy. Our government asked ED and CBI to initiate an investigation in this. In 2013 we handed the matter to CBI, they gave a preliminary enquiry report within 12 days.

Why have you (NDA) done nothing to make headway in the investigation in the last two years? We have never denied that corruption took place in the deal. But, why did you oppose JPC on the issue back then?

Anurag Thakur at 12: 52 PM: The helicopters were meant for Indian conditions, so why were trials conducted abroad?

Anurag Thakur at 12:47 PM: Congress’ corruption stamp has been visible in all previous scams related to defence. Why was AgustaWestland favoured? NDA reduced the cap on flying height to ensure that there is more competition and we have to pay less price to procure the choppers. But, why did UPA increase the cabin height to 1.8 metres. Globally cabin height is 1.5 metre. But why did you increase it? You did this so that only a few companies were eligible for the deal.

Anurag Thakur at 12:45 PM: The way Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has presented his case, doodh ka doodh paani ka paani ho gaya hai. I hail from Himachal Pradesh, where have always sacrificed their lives for the nation. I want to know, was this bribe taking limited to just Tyagi? Congress has sacrificed India’s reputation. Congress also believed in khao aur khane do. In Modi government, we are ensuring ki na khayenge na khane denge.

What Defence Minister Parrikar said:

12: 37 PM: Defence Minister on May 12, 2014 finally put a stop to the deal. This was the time of general elections. Action was finally taken in May 2014, while it could have easily been taken in February, 2012.

12:32 PM: You (UPA government) should have stopped the supply of helicopters in 2012 itself. In December 2012, three helicopters were delivered by AgustaWestland and accepted by us. Why did this happen? When you were aware that corruption had taken place in the deal, the helicopters should not have been accepted. First notice of stopping the deal was issued in 2012, but there were only notices being exchanged, but no action was taken.

12:27 PM: UPA government had made changes in the tender to favour AgustaWestland, I have all the documents. Price comparisons would have been possible by following a multi vendor system. A multi vendor system would have helped in conforming with bench marking. Bench marking is a criteria in the overall selection of defence procurement,

12:25 PM: The benchmarking was very high. The helicopters were bought at very high price. It was six times higher

12:22 PM: Tender document states that trials have to be conducted in India, but this was not complied with.

12:20 PM: Changes made by UPA paved the way for single vendor finalisation in favour of one company. UPA had made changes in clauses, this impacted the overall selection process

12:19 PM: All concessions were given to AgustaWestland, some were also given to Sikorsky too.

12:15 PM: Ceiling height of the chopper was reduced from 6,000 metre to 4,500 metre. The recommendation to reduce the height was given during Atal ji’s government, but by adding an essential SQR of 1.8 metre cabin height, UPA government instead of expanding the vendor base, reduced it. On May 9, 2005, the UPA 1 government made sure that with the changed height of cabin, only AgustaWestland’s AW101 was allowed.

Earlier this week, Parrikar tore into Congress’ defence in the AgustaWestland controversy, saying, “When the brief is very weak, even the best advocate can’t win the case.”

Parrikar suggested the role of an “invisible hand” in preventing a proper investigation in the chopper scam. Parrikar said CBI had registered a case on March 12, 2013 but it did not bother to forward a copy of the FIR to ED for nine months.

Later, ED did not act on the FIR till July 2014, he said. “It appears an invisible hand was guiding action or inaction of CBI and ED,” the Minister said.

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First published on: 06-05-2016 at 12:25 IST