Opposition demands Supreme Court-monitored CBI probe into Jet-Etihad deal

The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) today demanded a Supreme Court-monitored CBI enquiry into the twin deals of the Jet Airways-Etihad stake sale deal and the India-UAE seat sharing agreement, which used an opaque foreign direct investment policy as a smokescreen to sell national resources on the cheap for private gain.

The sale of 49-per cent stake in the domestic airline to Gulf-based Etihad followed an expanded seat-sharing agreement between India and the United Arab Emirates, which made the private deal all the more attractive to the foreign investor.

The BJP has demanded that the government order a CBI inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court to the Jet-Etihad deal, which was carried out in a ''half-cooked'' and ''objectionable'' manner.

The BJP's demand for a probe comes after the prime minister's office on Tuesday intervened to allay fears over the coincidence of the private deal and a complementary sovereign deal in the aviation sector.

''This deal is mired in all kinds of controversies. The manner in which the deal was concluded two days after the bilateral with the UAE was signed and assigning them 37,000 additional seats clearly indicates that these two private parties - Jet Airways and Etihad - were fully aware of what the government was going to do,'' BJP leader and a former finance minister Yashwant Sinha told a news channel.

He alleged that the deal was ''predicated'' on the increase in number of seats to be made available.

''Given the kind of agreement which they have concluded, in which there will be members on the board much in excess of what 24 per cent entitles them to, is raising all kinds of concerns,'' Sinha said.

Sinha said it was clear that the government rushed through the seat-sharing agreement only to make stake acquisition in loss-making Jet Airways attractive to Etihad.

In fact, he said, the speed at which the seat-sharing deal was carried out did not give government agencies enough time to examine the deal in all its ramifications.

''The government should order a CBI inquiry monitored by the Supreme Court to probe the manner in which this deal has been done,'' Sinha said.

''This deal smacks of a scam. It is already stinking. There should be an inquiry into who is responsible,'' he added.

He said this deal is ''half-cooked'' and ''objectionable'' and the prime minister's office now seems to be getting wise and demanding that the deal be re-examined.

He also alleged that the PMO and the aviation ministry are now trying to iron out differences over the sale of seats to the UAE carrier saying the two deals are different.

''There is a tendency on the part of the prime minister that he distances himself the moment a crisis arises. He did this in Coalgate and 2G spectrum. This is completely unacceptable,'' Sinha said.