Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday latched on to an Enforcement Directorate accusation in the AgustaWestland VVIP choppers deal case, using it to attack the Congress and the Gandhi family at a poll rally in Dehradun.
“The middlemen in the helicopter scam have said they paid bribes to one ‘AP’ and the other ‘FAM’. The chargesheet has said that ‘AP’ means Ahmed Patel and ‘FAM’ means Family (Gandhis),” the PM said.
The ED in its chargesheet filed on Thursday had said Christian Michel, the alleged middleman arrested in the case, had identified the abbreviations, which the BJP has long claimed means Ahmed Patel, who is a close aide of Sonia Gandhi, and the Gandhi family.
Christian Michel, however, told a Delhi court on Friday that he has not named anybody in connection with the deal during investigation by the Enforcement Directorate. Michel, in an affidavit, alleged that the central government was using agencies for political agenda.
The ED, in its fourth supplementary chargesheet, has also alleged that kickbacks were paid to important political persons of the UPA, defence officials, media persons and bureaucrats to swing the Rs 3,600 crore deal in favour of AgustaWestland.
The allegations, less than a week ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, have triggered a political slugfest with the Congress denying the charges and calling them politically motivated while the BJP has gone on the offensive.
Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said reference to the party’s leaders in the chargesheet was nothing more than a cheap election stunt.
“A single uncertified page leaked by ED of a purported chargesheet is a cheap election stunt to divert attention from imminent defeat of the Modi government. ED has become ‘Election Dhakosla’ of a government manufacturing a lie a day,” he said.
Union minister and senior BJP leader asked why every time there is a controversial defence deal and evidence is collected, names close to the Congress Party’s first family start appearing.
“Are ‘RG’, ‘AP’ and ‘FAM’ fictional characters or were they in a position to influence the deal?” he wrote in a blog post.
He said that neither then defence minister AK Antony nor Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had any role (in the deal). “The needle of suspicion points towards one family and people who could influence decisions,” he stated.