NEW DELHI: Even as the BJP decided to rake up afresh the Bofors gun issue after latest disclosures in the media today by the former Swedish investigator Sten Lindstrom that Rajiv Gandhi had protected the identity of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, the Congress party interpreted this as a vindication that Rajiv was not involved in the Bofors gun payoff.
The BJP parliamentary party which met this morning decided to raise the issue during the discussions on the Defence Ministry budgetary demands in the Rajya Sabha and to highlight this as one more instance of corruption of the Congress and UPA government.
BJP general secretary and chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “The entire government of the late Rajiv Gandhi was out to protect Ottavio Quattrocchi. What was his link with the government and the Gandhi family that the entire government was there to bail him out… it is a serious matter,” adding, “the government should respond and apologise to the nation,” he said.
Prasad said of Quattrocchi, “He was close to the Gandhi family… the role of Quattrochi should be probed by an independent agency and so should be the role of the CBI officials who said there was no evidence against him.”
He recalled that his party had always questioned the safe passage to Italian businessman Quattrocchi in the Rs 1500 crore Bofors gun deal of 1980s. “What was the link of Ottavio Quattrocchi to the powers that be in India, including the Gandhi family? Today also, the news has come of a kickback in a helicopter deal. This government has sunk deep into corruption from telecom scam, Commonwealth Games, to Adarsh (Housing Scam) back to Bofors and now the helicopter deal,” said the BJP leader. On the other hand, the one-time close associate of Rajiv and current Law Minister Salman Khursheed claimed that his party (Congress) had always raised the question of Ottavio Quattrocchi while defending former PM late Rajiv Gandhi and said the issue should be closed.
“This has been proved again that Rajivji was innocent. This is an issue which has traumatised the nation, hurt the family of Rajiv and Congressmen. This issue should be closed now,” Khursheed insisted.
He asked the Opposition to read the SC and HC judgments on the case clearly. “The BJP should read the judgments of the Supreme Court and the High Court. I don’t want to get into their trap,” Khursheed said.
In his interview, Lindstrom has stated that while there was no evidence to show that Gandhi had taken a bribe in the Bofors deal but he didn’t stop the cover-up to protect Quattrocchi. He also said that the then Bofors chief Martin Ardbo had disclosed that there were strict instructions from Rajiv Gandhi to protect the money trail to Quattrocchi.
For the first time Lindstrom has stated superstar Amitabh Bachchan was not involved and Indian investigators had planted the info about him in Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter. Amitabh’s wife Rajya Sabha member Jaya Bachchan reacted saying while they knew all along they were innocent, the Lindstrom disclosure has come in as a vindication.
The Bofors case dates back to 1986, when Swiss arms manufacturer Bofors got a Rs 64 crore contract to supply Howitzer Guns to India. A year later, Swiss media began reporting that the company had paid massive kickbacks to Indian politicians and defence officials.