Union minister Smriti Irani today sought to put the Congress in the dock on the Bofors issue, citing claims of a private investigator involved in its probe, and asked it to come clean on the involvement of its leaders in the alleged scam.
Targeting the opposition party, she told reporters that its leaders, including its chief Sonia Gandhi, have been shown to be too eager to grab undue benefits whether it is a matter of an air ticket upgrade or a scam like the Bofors deal.
Quoting from private detective Michael Hershman’s interviews to some media houses, she said he was asked by then Finance Minister V P Singh to look into the Bofors deal but was later offered bribe and then given death threat when he stumbled on the evidence of bribe.
The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi shifted Singh to the defence ministry while Hershman was also asked to implicate Singh, she said.
Quoting him, she said the owner of a Pakistani-run Bank of Credit and Commerce International, which had been allegedly involved in money laundering and other financial crimes, or his representative met Rajiv Gandhi with a large suitcase.
Following this, the bank, which was shut after a CBI raid in connection with the Bofors deal, was allowed to open and its detained officials were released, she said.
“Who were offering bribe? Why did a Congress leader (Rajiv Gandhi) choose to silence his own minister (Singh)?
“For too long the Congress has kept conveniently quiet.
It is time that it answers as to what was the role of Congress leaders then and now,” she asked, adding that many of them are still around.
The Congress has had a tendency to either bribe or give death threats to people looking into dubious deals involving its leaders, she alleged.
Hershman’s interviews have brought to life the “sordid saga” of Bofors.
Irani parried queries asked by the Congress at a press conference in which it questioned then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s, now prime minister, 100 trips in private chartered flights.
She said the Congress was trying to prove its leaders involved in the Bofors case and Robert Vadra, Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law involved in controversial land deals, innocent. Its leader have not responded to Hershman’s claims or fresh charges against Vadra, she said.
To a question, the information and broadcasting minister said the Congress should have filed a defamation suit against Hershman if it believed he was wrong as she noted that Jay Shah, the son of BJP chief Amit Shah, had filed a Rs 100-crore suit against a news portal over a story on his business.
In the press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra cited the BJP’s victory in 1,311 seats against 312 of the Congress in Maharashtra local body polls to claim that people have rejected the opposition’s narrative against the Modi government.
“For the BJP, the party is family and for the Congress, the family is party,” he said, in a dig at the Gandhi family.