Agusta case: Attempts being made to corner Sonia, Rahul before LS polls

Mumbai:  The Shiv Sena Wednesday charged that the claims of alleged middleman Christian Michel in AgustaWestland case were an attempt to corner Congress leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.

The Sena, an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, further alleged that the government machinery was being misused to nail political opponents.

A Delhi court hearing the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case had last week imposed restrictions on Michel meeting his lawyers in the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) custody. 

This was after the agency said he was misusing legal access by passing chits to the advocates asking them how to tackle questions on "Mrs Gandhi'.

In its application seeking extension of Michel's remand, the ED, which is the probe agency in the case, also claimed that he had spoken during questioning about the "son of an Italian lady" and how he is going to become the next prime minister of the country.

The Sena said when Michel was extradited from Dubai, Assembly poll campaigns were in progress in five states and the "BJP's tail was on fire".

"Prime Minister Narendra Modi had at some poll rallies spoken about this middleman and claimed there would be explosive revelations and that he would not spare anybody. We now understand what he was hinting at," the Sena said in an editorial in its mouthpiece 'Saamana'.

It is "laughable" that even before the probe against Michel could begin, Modi pointed fingers at the Gandhi family and cleared the line of probe, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party said.

"The BJP, which was supposed to lose polls in five states, lost despite Michel's extradition to India. It can be clearly gauged that 'Mission Michel' is aimed at 2019," the Marathi publication said.

Referring to the verdict in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh encounter case, it said BJP chief Amit Shah and others got a clean chit in it as the CBI "pleaded before the court that there was pressure on the agency to name big BJP leaders".

Their names would have stayed in the list of the accused had the Congress been in power and the Congress today is making similar allegations, it said.

"The government machinery is under the feet of two- four people and being used wrongly to nail political opponents,"the Sena alleged.

It said there have been allegations of kickbacks received in the AgustaWestland deal and the culprits, no matter how "big" they are, should not be spared. 

But, just because Michel has taken the name of Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders, people will not forget the Rafale jet scam, it said.

"Like Sonia Gandhi and others have been named here (in AgustaWestland case), the former French president has named Anil Ambani (group) and this (Rafale) scam is worth some thousands of crores," the Sena said.

"This is an attempt to corner Sonia Gandhi and his son before 2019 (polls) and after Quattrocchi (late Italian businessman who was a key figure in the Bofors scandal), Michel 'puran' will begin in the country now," it said.

Issues like inflation, unemployment, demonetisation, farmer suicides and Ram temple will take the back seat now and elections will be fought on Michel's name, the editorial said in sarcastic remarks.

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