PM Modi puts Christian Michel in the middle of political storm to take on Congress
On the last day of campaigning in poll-bound Rajasthan, top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Wednesday seized on the extradition of an alleged middleman in a UPA-era defence deal to corner the Congress, which has made a strong bid to oust the saffron party from power in the state.
The Congress dubbed the claims of Modi and other BJP leaders, including party chief Amit Shah, as a "smear campaign" against its leadership, claiming that they were "latching" on to Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, as the saffron party was staring at defeats in the ongoing state elections.
Michel, a British citizen, was extradited to India on Tuesday night and sent to CBI custody for five days by a Delhi court.
At a press conference in Jaipur, Shah asked the Congress to clear its stand on the issue and wondered if the Opposition wanted to save Michel.
Later in the day, Modi raised the issue at his rallies, saying his government had brought Michel to India and that the British citizen served politicians and held many secrets.
"When he reveals his secrets, things will go very far," he said, adding that it was a big "scam" of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) era.
At another rally, the prime minister reminded the people of his promise that his government will not spare the corrupt as he spoke of Michel's extradition to target the Congress.
The opposition party, however, accused Modi and his government of weaving a "web of lies" to hoodwink people as the BJP was facing defeats in the state polls.
"While the BJP and Prime Minister Modi are seeking fake credit without being subjected to investigation by the CBI for their own complicity and connivance, they are latching on to Christian Michel for launching a smear campaign against opposition leaders," Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala told reporters in Hyderabad.
He alleged that the statement of Michel's lawyer Rosemary Patrizi Dos Anjos after the former's detention in July had "clearly brought out" that the Modi government and its agencies were forcing him to sign a false confessional statement, naming UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, in return for a complete exoneration from any charge whatsoever in the case.
Shah asked the Congress to spell out its stand on Michel's extradition.
"I want to know whether any middleman should be arrested or not? What does the Opposition want? Does it want to save them," he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief was responding to the Opposition's charge that the extradition was a move to divert attention from other issues.
The BJP and the Congress are locked in a fierce poll battle in Rajasthan with the former pulling out all the stops to foil the latter's bid to return to power in the state after a gap of five years.
The 200-member Rajasthan Assembly will go to polls on December 7 and the outcome will be announced on December 11, along with the results of the Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram and Telangana Assembly elections.