Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bofors : The issue that refuses to die

The 155 mm field gun which is famous for its anti-aircraft fire power has created more noise in New Delhi than in India's borders. What was brought to scare Pakistan on the Western Front has turned out to be one of the biggest nightmares for the Congress party especially the Gandhi family. The controversy around the field gun refuses to die even after two decades since it broke out.

The Central Bureau of Investigation's letting Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi off the hook in the middle of the General Elections has definitely raised some eyebrows. The CBI has asked the Interpol to take off Quattrocchi's name from the Red Corner notice list which was put on India's request. The Italian businessman is an accused in Rs 64 crore the Bofors payoff scam.

The Bofors scam which had broken out in 1987 had the name of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who was accused of receiving kickbacks from Bofors AB for winning a bid to supply India’s 155 mm field howitzer. Quattrocchi who acted as the middleman in the deal was known to be very close to Gandhi family especially Italian-born Sonia Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi's government came under severe criticism over the scam, eventually lost the 1989 elections.

This has already snowballed into a major controversy ahead of the third phase of elections. The BJP and the BSP have accused the Congress of misusing the central investigative agency for a cover up action on a 20 year old case. The BJP said that the Congress can foresee its defeat in the elections and wants to bury all the cases it has against it. It accused the Congress letting off Quattrocchi go due to his close relationship with the Gandhi family.

Another setback has been that the CBI's role as an independent investigative agency has taken a severe beating. Just a few weeks back its giving clean chit to Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar both accused in the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots had come under severe criticism. Even in the JMM bribery scam case JMM leader Shibu Soren was let off by the agency. In the coming days more mud slinging could take place in the issue.


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