'I am not afraid', says Sonia Gandhi on AgustaWestland deal

'I am not afraid', says Sonia Gandhi on AgustaWestland deal

'I am not afraid', says Sonia Gandhi on AgustaWestland deal

Congress President Sonia Gandhi today rejected as "baseless" allegations linking her and party leaders to bribes in the AgustaWestland chopper deal and said she is not "afraid" of being "cornered" on the issue.

She asked the government what it has been doing in power for the last two years on the issue and demanded that the ongoing inquiry be completed impartially.

"I am not afraid of anyone cornering me as there is no basis to that. All the accusations they are throwing at us are false," Gandhi told reporters in Parliament complex as BJP sought to target her on the deal.

"Where are the proofs. They are lying. They are part of a strategy of character assassination which we have known these people indulge in," Gandhi said.

Referring to the Modi government, Gandhi asked what has it been doing over the last two years.

"The government is there for the last 2 years. What are they doing? Inquiry is there, why don't they complete it? Complete it as soon as possible, impartially," she added.

Gandhi's political secretary and senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel also rubbished the allegations against him and the party as "absolutely baseless."

"This government, when they are saying all these things outside and inside the Parliament, why can't they investigate," Patel said.

"If there is something against me, they should find out and they should hang me," he said when asked by reporters for his reactions over the allegations.

The comments of Sonia Gandhi and Patel come in the backdrop of BJP move to target the Congress President and other party leaders on the issue of bribes in the
AugustaWestland chopper deal during the UPA regime in a bid to corner the main opposition party which has been paralysing Rajya Sabha on the Uttarakhand affair.

BJP today sought an explanation from Congress, while the opposition party hit back, asking why the Modi government had cancelled the process of blacklisting the firm in question.

Attacking Congress, Environment and Forests Minister Prakash Javadekar said that what has been revealed in Agusta Westland case is "very important and very serious" and that Congress owes an explanation.

He said that instead of disrupting Parliament, Congress should introspect on what "they have done to the country and explain what is the role of their leaders" in the case.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also targeted Congress, saying that those accused of paying bribes are in jail, but the alleged recipients are blocking the progress of the country.

There should be a discussion on the matter so that facts can come out in the open, he said.

BJP is expected to raise the issue in Parliament. Congress has been paralysing proceedings in Rajya Sabha over the imposition of President's rule in Uttarakhand.

Top BJP leaders had met yesterday to chalk out a strategy following reports that an Italian court, which has convicted AgustaWestland chief Giuseppe Orsi, has described how the firm paid bribes to certain Congress leaders to bag the Rs 3,600 crore deal.
Congress Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, however, hit back, saying that if anybody needs to answer questions on the matter it is the Modi government.

He said the UPA governement had included an integrity clause as per which the contract for purchase of helicopters from Agusta Westland was cancelled, the guarantee forfeited and process initiated for recovery of money.

Surjewala said that the money too was recovered and "not a single rupee loss was caused to the Government of India."

He said that the UPA government had also ordered a CBI inquiry as well as initiating the process of blacklisting Agusta Westland.

"On the contrary, as the government changed in May 2014, Modiji proceeded to cancel the process of blacklisting Agusta Westland. Why did Modiji not blacklist Agusta Westland?" Surjewala asked.

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