Home / Politics / Policy /  UPA says ready for JPC probe in chopper deal

New Delhi: Defence minister A.K. Antony said on Tuesday that the government is willing to provide Parliament with details of a 3,600 crore helicopter deal after the ruling coalition came under sustained attack over allegations that kickbacks were involved in the purchase.

The clarification came ahead of the start of Parliament’s budget session on 21 February, which promises to be a stormy one as the opposition is set to attack the government over the AgustaWestland helicopter deal.

Antony also denied reports of a rift within the administration over India’s move to cancel the deal.

“There is no question of lack of coordination with the ministry of external affairs," he told reporters in New Delhi.

Newspapers had reported that foreign minister Salman Khurshid wanted the deal to go ahead, while Antony wanted it scrapped.

Khurshid also denied any differences with Antony over the issue on Tuesday.

“I have not expressed any reservations. I had only said... the decision has to be a collective decision of the government led by the ministry of defence," he said. “Keeping all that in mind, the defence ministry will recommend what it thinks is appropriate."

Antony said the government was trying to get more details about the deal from the Italian government.

“We will show no mercy to the guilty," Antony said.

The defence ministry has initiated the process of scrapping the deal and has issued notices to AgustaWestland over the alleged kickbacks. The government has also ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe.

Opposition parties are planning to press the Congress-led government for answers in the budget session.

Giuseppe Orsi, chairman and chief executive officer of Finmeccanica SpA, the parent company of AgustaWestland, was arrested in Rome last week over the allegations. Also arrested was Bruno Spagnolini, head of AgustaWestland.

The government also expressed readiness for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe, saying it had nothing to hide and “our hands are very clean", PTI reported.

Antony ruled out his resignation and said he was prepared to explain everything in Parliament.

“We are open for a joint parliamentary committee if this satisfies everybody," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath told a press conference on Tuesday.

Nath insisted that the government was “neither afraid nor hesitant" about discussing any issue during the three-month budget session of Parliament beginning Thursday.

The minister, who held a meeting with the chief whips of various political parties, said the government had got a “flavour" of the issues that will be raised during the session including the helicopter deal, the hanging of Afzal Guru, the price rise, land acquisition and food security.

He also rejected the BJP accusation that Antony had misled Parliament on the helicopter deal and that his style of functioning had resulted in the alleged scam.

Antony said, “I will do my duty. I am now getting ready for the Parliament session. We will explain everything to Parliament. We have nothing to hide. Our hands are very clean." He said he was “sad and upset" over the row that had erupted despite all precautions having been taken. “Now we are preparing to face Parliament."

PTI contributed to this story.

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