External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Tuesday said that he has not expressed any reservation over the defence ministry’s move to scrap the Rs 3,546 crore VVIP chopper deal, and added that his comment was a sensible one.
"I have not expressed any reservation at all. I have only said what sounds sensible. The decision has to be a collective decision of the government, led by the ministry of defence; let them take a decision. I don’t think we should take decisions in the media, in the streets of the country," Khurshid told media.
"We have nothing to hide. It’s an outright, objective procedure that has been followed. Keeping all that in mind, the defence ministry will recommend what it thinks is the appropriate decision," he added.
Khurshid had earlier expressed his reservation on the defence ministry’s plan to scrap the deal. He had also stressed that the final decision would be taken when the issue would be brought before the Cabinet Committee on Security, the highest decision-making body on defence-related matters. Both Khurshid and Defence Minister A K Antony are members of the CCS.
The Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ] earlier in the day criticised the government for speaking in different tunes over the need to cancel the deal.
"Till yesterday, we heard the defence minister that he is going to scrap the 3,600 Agusta helicopter deal. And he admits that there is corruption, the defence minister admits that there is a kickback, which has taken place. But here today, we see the External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid says that it has to be discussed in the CCS. There is a visible contradiction," said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
"The Bharatiya Janata Party would certainly like to know now (that) is it a cover-up exercise, which has begun because we are not interested what they do with the scrapping of the deal. We are more interested to know who are the beneficiaries who have got the kickback, who are the culprits; and this is exactly what the BJP has been asking, this is exactly what the people of the country want to know," he added.
Rudy further said the BJP would leave no stone unturned in cornering the government on the copter deal in the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament.
"There is corruption underneath and I think with the Parliament session commencing in the next two days, this is going to be a major corruption issue against the Congress Party and I think the Congress Party would have to answer lot of questions in Parliament," he said.
A CBI team has left for Italy [ Images ] to probe the allegations of kickbacks in the deal.
The ministry of defence earlier on Saturday directed Joint Secretary A K Bal to travel to Italy to gather as much evidence as possible relating to the allegations of corruption in the acquisition of 12 AW 101 VVIP helicopters for the Indian Air Force.
The ministry of defence has initiated action for the cancellation of contract for procurement of 12 AW101 helicopters for the use of VVIPs.
The MoD earlier on Friday issued a formal show cause notice to the AgustaWestland of UK seeking cancellation of contract and taking other actions as per the terms of the contract and the Integrity Pact.
The MoD had already put on hold further payments to the company on Wednesday.
With the show cause notice, the operation of the contract has been put on hold.
The company has been asked to reply to the notice in seven days.
Defence Minister A K Antony had earlier last week said that strong action will be taken against those found guilty.
The name of former Air Chief S P Tyagi has reportedly figured in the alleged scam, but he has stoutly refuted the bribery charge against him.
The copter scam was unfolded with the arrest of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company.
AgustaWestland, the Italian firm is presently at the centre of a controversy over allegations of paying kickbacks in the chopper deal.