New Delhi, Feb 15: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday urged the opposition not to target President Pranab Mukherjee on the VVIP chopper deal.
“It is important that we retain some dignity in manner in which we register our protest. It is important. We should not destroy the edifice of India’s constitutional governance. But whatever point they have, they must make their point, there are enough avenues available and we are willing to listen,” he said.
In what may come as a major embarrassment for the Congress-led ruling coalition at the Centre, a fact sheet prepared by the UPA Government mentions President Pranab Mukherjee’s name in the controversial AgustaWestland chopper deal with Italy.
Reports, Friday, said that the deal with Italian defence firm Finmeccanica for supplying 12 choppers for the use of VVIPs was cleared during Pranab Mukherjee’s tenure as Defence Minister in 2005.
The government’s fact sheet further states that the tender was finalised in 2005 when Pranab Mukherjee was the Defence Minister, and SP Tyagi, now retired, was the Air Chief Marshal.
Amid sharp criticism from the opposition parties, the government has promised that the guilty would not be spared in the scandal involving bribery in the acquisition of expensive helicopters for use by VVIPs.
Defence Minister A.K. Antony had earlier on Wednesday said that strong action will be taken against those found guilty.
“Nobody will be spared whatever may be the consequences,” he said.
The copter scam has unfolded with the arrest of the head of a state-controlled Italian aerospace company.
Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi, who was arrested on Tuesday in Rome, had been under investigation for months and had denied any wrongdoing in the deal for the sale of 12 Augusta Westland helicopters to India in 2010.
The company is suspected of paying bribes of about Rs 362 crore in India to get orders for helicopters to ferry Indian VVIPs, prompting the government to order a CBI probe. (ANI)