No new information emerges from slugfest in Lok Sabha over Augusta Westland


ground zero

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, May 6: The Narendra Modi government was expected to come out with some new revelations over the issue of mega corruption in the cancelled Augusta Westland helicopter deal  but it ended up with a political statement by Defence Minister Mahohar Parrikar that what could not be exposed in the Bofors investigations would now come out before the country in this probe. Nothing was left in doubt as  Rajiv Gandhi was at the centre of Bofors controversy while it is now his wife and all-powerful Congress President Sonia Gandhi who is under focus for being the ‘driving force’ behind the deal that got exposed during the UPA regime itself. It was the UPA government that took action.

The Congress had fielded young and articulate Jyotiraditya Scinda who was on the offensive and ended his speech with the forceful demand for Supreme Court monitored probe. Finding no response to this demand, the Congress preferred to stage a walk out. Both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi were present during discussion in the Lok Sabha today. However, one did not feel further enlightened than what has already appeared in the media.

The issue is back in the centre stage of the Indian political discourse following the verdict given by an Italian court. However, there is nothing conclusive in the verdict as to who were the Indian leaders who received the kickbacks. It is a well-known fact that hefty commissions are part of defence deals with arms dealers known to wield considerable influence in the corridors of powers. Corruption is all the more rampant in the countries where  decision making process is subjected to lot of red tape and it takes years to clinch a deal. Such controversies dates back to the period when the prime minister happened to be Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.

Live coverage of parliamentary proceedings has a very positive aspect as the camera exposes the seriousness or casual approach of the members who make all the noise but suddenly appear non-serious, unaware of the camera catching every expression of theirs. It is altogether different matter that these law makers take little interest on vital issues like drought, health and education that concern crores of people. Today’s debate was more focused on scoring political points rather than hammering the basic issue. The Modi government now talks of the probe by the same CBI that the BJP, while in opposition, used to slam as the  Congress Bureau of Investigation.

It seems the issue is not corruption in helicopter deal but the forthcoming elections in states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Stakes of both the Congress as well as the BJP are high in both these states. The BJP is the alliance partner of the Akali Dal in Punjab where the Parkash Singh Badal government is confronted with tsunami of anti-incumbency. Aam Aadmi Party is the third dimension in Punjab but this party is unlikely to contest in UP.

BJP matters little in Punjab and the party can’t win even a single seat without Akali Dal support. However, Modi’s problem is different. Punjab is being perceived as the launching pad in the context of national framework. This can be true both for AAP and the Congress. With performance of the Modi government under question, Punjab would perhaps be the most interesting arena. Sangh Parivar is already  busy with diverting national political discourse by raking up frivolous issues. The debate on Augusta Westland was a pointer that the government want to score political point rather than exposing the guilty.

The demand for Supreme Court monitored probe raised by the Congress can’t be rejected by any logic. However, Parrikar was more  keen in raking up other issues rather than responding to this demand.


Jagtar Singh


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