In what could be an embarrassing disclosure, a factsheet prepared by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government on the AgustaWestland copter scam has brought President Pranab Mukherjee and the governors of two states into the picture.
The factsheet says the deal with Italian defence firm Finmeccanica for the purchase of 12 AgustaWestland 101 copters for the use of VVIPs was cleared in 2005, a time when President Pranab was the defence minister, Air Chief Marshal (retired) S P Tyagi was the Indian Air Force Chief, Vir Wanchoo headed the Special Protection Group (SPG) and M K Narayanan was the National Security Advisor (NSA).
As observers point out, none of the three can be prosecuted as they all enjoy constitutional immunity. At most, they can be summoned for questioning. Wanchoo is now the Governor of Goa, while Narayanan is the Governor of West Bengal.
The factsheet also blames the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government for lacunae in the deal. It alleges that in 2003, the then National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra (who died last year) wrote to the then defence secretary saying that the existing rules were unfair as they allowed only single bidding and that the qualifying height of the choppers should be reduced from 18,000 feet to at most 14,000 feet.
It says that in the initial tender only Eurocopter was found eligible to bid. In 2003, Brajesh Mishra met the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, urging him to change the norms to include more bidders. Altitude requirements were brought down from 6,000 to 4,500 metres after that meeting.
Later, Mishra wrote to the Air Chief Marshal suggesting consultations with the defence secretary. After the UPA came to power, the factsheet says, the Indian Air Force, the SPG, the NSA and the defence ministry held consultations and changes in requirements were incorporated.