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Chopper Scam: Pranab Mukherjee’s Name crops up

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TNI Bureau: In a major embarrassment for the Congress, a factsheet prepared by the UPA government mentions Preisdent Paranb Mukherjee’s name in the AgustaWestland chopper deal, which was cleared during Mukherjee’s tenure as the Defence Minister.

The factsheet stated that tender was finalised in 2005 when Pranab was holding defence portfolio, SP Tyagi was Air Force Chief, BV Wanchoo was SPG Chief and MK Narayanan was the national security advisor.

The deal with Italian defence firm Finmeccanica for supplying 12 AgustaWestland choppers for the use of Indian VVIPs was cleared during the Congress-led UPA government in 2010.

The factsheet also blamed BJP-led NDA government for involvement in the deal. The report said that the rules in the bidding process were changed after the suggestion by the then National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra. In 2003, he had written to the then Defence Secretay stating the existing rules were unfair as it allowed only single bidding. He had also suggested that the qualifying height of the choppers should be reduced from 18,000 feet to at least 14,000 feet. Initially, Eurocopter was found eligible to enter the bidding process.

Mr Mishra had later met the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee urging him to change the norms to include more bidders. On his request, the altitude requirements were brought down from 6000 to 4500 metres. He also wrote a letter to the Air Chief Marshal suggesting him to consult with the Defence Secretary.

The government report said that the IAF, SPG, NSA and Defence Ministry had made the changes in bidding process. Three foreign defence firms entered the bidding process out of which the ministry selected AgustaWestland choppers. The Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the deal on January 18, 2010.

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