New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress locked horns over the AgustaWestland case on Friday as politics over allegations of corruption in purchase of VVIP choppers heated up with less than a week to go for 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to make it a poll issue by raising it at a public rally in Dehradun, while the Congress accused the BJP of spinning a “cheap election stunt", and the enforcement directorate (ED) of “rehashing" insinuations.
The developments came a day after the ED filed a supplementary chargesheet in the VVIP chopper case that dates back to the earlier United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Special judge Arvind Kumar of the Patiala House court will take cognizance of the chargesheet on Saturday.
On Friday, Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the deal, approached the Central Bureau of Investigation court hearing the AgustaWestland case. Michel alleged that media outlets had been secretly provided copies of the charge sheet before the court could take cognizance of it.
The court has issued a notice to the ED asking how the charge sheet could have been leaked, while Michel’s counsel Aljo K. Joseph claimed that Michel “never named anyone" on the basis of abbreviations and names mentioned in the charge sheet.
At the Dehradun rally, Modi said: “I saw in the media that the people who have been named by the middlemen of taking a bribe, one of them is AP and the other FAM. In this charge sheet it is said that AP is Ahmed Patel and FAM is family."
“You have heard Ahmed Patel’s name. You know him, right? Tell me which family is Ahmed Patel close to? You know the answer. Who were the people who took the commission in the helicopter deal?," he asked.
Patel, the Congress treasurer, responded on Twitter: “It is election season and fake promises have started again. Unfounded and laughable allegations are raining. We have full faith in the judiciary that truth will come out. It looks like the ED too has become a key part of NDA."
Both parties fielded senior leaders to talk about the issue. “Right to silence is for accused not for the one who is dreaming to be the country’s prime minister... The more you suppress the truth, the more it spreads so it is necessary that a reply be given by the Congress," finance minister Arun Jaitley said, questioning Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s silence on the issue.
“A single uncertified page leaked by ED of a purported charge sheet is a cheap election stunt to divert attention from the imminent defeat of the Modi government. The ED has become ‘election dhakosla’ of a government manufacturing a lie a day," Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said earlier in the day.
“That certain portions of the charge sheet have been leaked to media makes it clear that ED is not interested in a fair trial of the court of law and only wants a trial by media," Michel said in his application.