Sonia asks govt to act tough

The Congress top brass is understood to have asked the government to respondly strongly to the Italian government’s refusal to send back the marines, ostensibly to make sure the BJP does not reap political dividend by invoking links of the party’s first family with Italy.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take a tough stand and make sure the UPA government does not appear to have taken Italy’s volte-face lying down.

When Congress MPs from Kerala met her in Parliament and expressed their concern over political implications, she said “They (Italian government) have done a very unfair thing.” The Congress president also told them that she had advised the prime minister to take a firm stand on the issue.

The diplomatic stand-off between India and Italy over the issue comes at a time when Rahul Gandhi is gradually stepping into the shoes of the Congress president in the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The issue has added to their woes as the principal Opposition party, the BJP, is making a comparison of the UPA government’s failure in bringing the marines back to India with that of Italian businessman and Bofors scam accused Ottavio Quattrocchi who managed to escape from Indian laws in the 1980s.

While criticising the Italian government’s move to backtrack from its assurance, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley had on Wednesday indirectly referred to Quattrocchi’s flight from Indian laws.

The marines have “absconded as a result of a deception, an outright fraud”, which had been “practised on the Indian government and on the Supreme Court by a sovereign nation,” the BJP leader had said. Amid uproar in both Houses of Parliament, the prime minister on Wednesday warned Italy of “consequences” if the accused were not sent back to stand trial in India. Following the tough talking by the prime minister, the Congress is expressing confidence that the issue will be resolved with Italy.

Seeking to shift the blame, many party leaders are contending that it was not the government but the Supreme Court which allowed the marines to visit Italy. “It was a guarantee their government had given but they went back on it. Blaming the government for it is not correct as it was an order of the Supreme Court. Government is making all necessary efforts to bring the two Italians back,” a senior party leader said, while defending the government.

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