Congress president Rahul Gandhi may have locked himself inside his house for two days as his party leaders rejected his offer to quit as party chief, after his party’s crushing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. (His offer came a day after the results, handing his party just 52 seats against 303 for the BJP). But within a week time, he seems to have given in to the pressure to continue.
On June 1, Rahul Gandhi tweeted that the 52 Lok Sabha members of his party would work like “a pride of brave hearted lions” to protect the Constitution and institutions. He also warned that the BJP would have no walk over in Parliament.
Earlier, Sonia Gandhi, after being elected as Congress Parliamentary Party leader, praised her son for leading a valiant election campaign in “the hardest election” amidst “unprecedented hostility” from the ruling dispensation. She also attributed the success in the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan to the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.
Has Sonia Gandhi succeeded in prevailing upon her son to stick to the chair, against all advice by analysts, including journalists, sympathetic to the Gandhi family?
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday filed an additional charge-sheet in AgustaWestland chopper scam. The charge-sheet mentions the kickback paid to defence officials, bureaucrats, journalists and key political figures from the ruling party at the time of inking the deal.
The charge sheet also says the kickback amounts 12% of the contract amount of Rs 3,600 crore.
More importantly, it includes names that were jotted down in their abbreviated form in the diary of Christian Michel as the recipients of the kickback. For instance, it says AP is Ahmed Patel, who is the most trusted political advisor of Sonia Gandhi. Other abbreviations found in the diary, such as Fam, RG, SG, etc., have become the subject wild speculations and heated arguments.
If you are wondering what this scam is all about, here is the quick time line:
February 2010: The Ministry of Defense (MoD) under the UPA-II government signed a Rs 3,600 crore deal to buy 12 AugustaWestland AW101 helicopters to be used to carry VVIPs including Prime Minister and President.
February 2013: Giuseppe Orsi, the CEO of Finmeccanica, AgustaWestland’s parent company was arrested by Italian authorities on charges of corruption in the deal. As the news broke, the deal was put on hold and Defence Minister A.K. Antony ordered a CBI probe.
March 2013: Antony admitted that bribes had been taken. The CBI filed an FIR naming 13 people including former IAF chief Air Chief Marshal SP Tyagi. Others named in the FIR include three brothers of SP Tyagi, the brother of former Union minister and chairman and managing director of IDS Infotech. Besides four companies — Italy-based Finmeccanica, UK-based AgustaWestland and Chandigarh-based IDS Infotech and Aeromatrix – were also named in the FIR.
A Times Now investigation revealed the role of arms dealer Abhishek Verma and his Romanian born wife Anca Neacsu in the deal. Abhishek Verma was found to have interfaced with the politicians to get CCS clearance from the Cabinet Committee.
September 2015: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) attached properties belonging to Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, and family members of ex-IAF Chief SP Tyagi.
The CBI and the ED sent letters rogatory to eight countries including Italy, Tunisia Mauritius, the UAE, the UK, Switzerland, Singapore and the British Virgin Islands
April 2016: The Milan Court of Appeal convicted Giuseppe Orsi to four-and-a-half years’ jail term for paying a €30 million bribe to Indian politicians, bureaucrats and IAF officials. The court also ordered him and Bruno Spagnolini, who headed chopper division in AgustaWestland, to pay 7.5 million euros, the amount equalling the kickback.
December 2016: The CBI arrested ex-IAF chief SP Tyagi and his cousin Sanjeev Tyagi, along with advocate Gautam Khaitan.
September 2017: The CBI filed a charge-sheet against 10 people including SP Tyagi.
December 2016: The Italian Supreme Court of Cassazione cancelled the conviction of Giuseppe Orsi, and ordered a retrial.
January 2018: The third Court of Appeals of Milan acquitted the defendants on all charges. However, probe in India continued as agencies collected enough evidences to corruption.
December 2018: Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the AgustaWestland chopper deal was extradited to India from Dubai.
January 2019: Rajeev Saxena, a co-accused, and Deepak Talwar, a lobbyist, were extradited to India from Dubai.
April 2019: The Enforcement Directorate filed an additional charge sheet based on confession by Christian Michel.