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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1559

Ghost of Bofors returns to haunt Congress

From R. Vasudevan—Reporting from New Delhi
New Delhi, 26 April (Asian

The ghost of Bofors returned to haunt the Congress party on Wednesday with the BJP targeting it following fresh allegations that Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister may have soft-pedalled the probe into kickbacks in the gun deal to protect Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi.

In an interview, former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstorm, who owned up being the whistleblower in the illegal payoffs case, has said there was no evidence to suggest that Gandhi had taken a bribe in the Bofors deal but that he did nothing to prevent the cover-up that followed in both India and Sweden to protect Quattrocchi. In an interview that appears on the website, Sten Lindstrom has owned up to being the person (Sweden's Deep Throat) who leaked over 350 documents to Indian journalist Chitra Subramanian, who broke the story.

Training its guns on the Congress, BJP said it will raise the Bofors pay-offs issue in Parliament. "The entire government of India at that point in time was out to save Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, including then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after a meeting of the BJP parliamentary party where the issue was raised by senior leader Arun jaitley.

Brushing aside the allegations, Law Minister Salman Khurshid said the Bofors case is closed and there is no need to reopen it. The Law Minister also sought a public apology from all those making wild allegations against Gandhi for the past many years and tarnishing his image and hurting his family members. "There was a detailed investigation and there were Supreme Court and High Court proceedings that took place and the decision that came endorsed those proceedings. "I don't think we can continue to reopen these issues... We don't want a new chapter to be opened. The final decision of the Supreme Court should not be reopened," Khurshid told reporters in Delhi. "It is a matter of regret that without having any proof, such serious charges were levelled (against Rajiv Gandhi). The same people are not ready to feel sorry even today. They should apologise before the public," said Khurshid.

Asked if Rajiv Gandhi himself was "complicit" in saving Quattrochi, Prasad said, "His government tried to save and protect Quattrocchi, and suppress the investigations." The BJP leader said, "It is clear from the interview that Rajiv Gandhi's government made all efforts to stop the probe, delay proceedings and prevent any action against Quattrocchi."

The NCP sought to downplay the fresh allegations, saying there is no basis for any case against the Congress or the government. "I do not think there can be any case against Congress or government on the issue. There is no basis for it," NCP spokesperson DP Tripathy told reporters outside Parliament. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta accused the government of having no political will to expose the guilty. "It is very deplorable. It is a slur on the image of the country. It only means that the investigation procedure was false and government had no political will to identify who actually was behind the malpractice," he said.

Big B relief over “clean chit”

With the Swedish whistle-blower in the Bofors case giving him a clean chit, megastar Amitabh Bachchan on Wednesday said truth had prevailed but nobody could fathom the anguish he had to go through because of the "petulant blame". "Time for the fact and the truth to prevail.

Many an incident has passed by in life, where the accusation, the improbable was tested against reality. It looked and felt and was believed for that moment in the worst. Fighting a storm at it worst fury would be stupidity," Bachchan wrote on his blog.

In an interview to website, former Swedish police chief Sten Lindstrom, who led the Bofors probe in his country, alleged that Indian investigators probing the scandal had during a trip to Sweden in 1990 "planted the Bachchan angle." "They gave me a list of names to pursue including the name of Amitabh Bachchan. They also told me they did not trust you entirely because you had refused to link the Bachchans to the kickbacks.

"During that trip to Sweden, the Indian investigators planted the Bachchan angle on DN (Dagens Nyheter, a Swedish newspaper). The Bachchans took them to court in the UK and won. DN had to apologise and they said the story had come from Indian investigators," Lindstrom said. "25 years after the incident, I read today from one that pioneered accusation and investigation, of innocence. Of the fault that never lay before me," said Bachchan.

However, the pain of those trying times were quite evident when the superstar said, "No one shall be able to understand or even remotely fathom, the hours and days and months and years of the anguish of petulant blame that I had to go through." Bachchan said, "Those that colluded in desperation still abound, without as much as a conscious twitch on their well articulated and fashionably cleaned skins." "They won momentarily. But lost ultimately. Lost position and strength and power yes, but importantly their conscience. And today that counts the most!," he added.

Expressing delight over the final exoneration of Amitabh Bachchan's name in the Bofors Gun case, his wife and Samajwadi Party lawmaker Jaya Bachchan on Wednesday said the truth had finally come out in the open. "Whatever news that you have published today we knew all that 25 years ago, but justice takes its own time, and god has its own time to reveal the truth, and today, the truth has come out before everyone, what else do we want," she said. She said they knew the truth 25 years back. "Justice takes its own time and God has his own time to reveal the truth".

- Asian Tribune -

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