New Delhi: Lok Sabha heard in silence as BJP's Jaswant Singh said that Bofors was an excellent gun and that he said so after the field trials even angering his own party members then, but there was a mistake in the mode of payments which has to be rectified. Singh pleaded with the Congress that the Bofors payment issue is like a thorn in the defence procurement process and unless it is removed it will be bad for the country, and not just the Congress party. "This thorn is like a poison and it is spreading into the system. This should be removed," Singh said in his hallmark grave tone. "Bofors ki aandhi thami nahin (The Bofors storm has not abated)," he said in his gravelly voice.
Jaswant Singh admitted that as minister for external affairs in the NDA government he had failed to get the extradition of Ottavio Quattrochi from Malaysia. "You have failed. We have failed," he said but he said things need to be set right. He asked the government to appoint a judicial commission to find out who got the payments made into the AE Services account. He said it was Quattrochi, and this should be established.
When Singh spoke of how Quattrochi escaped from country to country and continent to continent, another BJP member Menaka Gandhi said loudly, "Shame, shame." Mrs Sonia Gandhi, Mr Pranab Mukherjee and Mr P.Chidambaram were sitting in the front row. Mrs Gandhi showed no expression as she heard Singh in silence.
Minister for parliamentary affairs Pawan Bansal interrupted Jaswant Singh, saying that there was no point in raising the issue after the Congress won elections in 2004 and 2009. Singh ended his speech saying that it was unusual that a parliamentary affairs minister should interrupt another member, and he said that this was due to the uneasiness felt by the minister and his party over the Bofors issue. BJP members, including L.K.Advani and Sushma Swaraj thumped the table at the end of Singh's speech.
Singh was followed by that of CPI-M leader in the House, Basudeb Acharia. He said that Quattrochi should be brought back. "This gentleman, this businessman, no he is not a gentleman, he is just a businessman" should face an independent inquiry, Acharia said. MIM's Asaduddin Owaisi told Acharia that his party had supported the UPA for five years.
There was silence in the House as Singh and Acharia spoke. But silence and order gave way to noise as the Congress fielded Sanjay Nirupam, the party's MP from Mumbai. BJP's whips in the House, including Harin Pathak, signalled to their party members to come into the Well of the House. It took a couple of minutes responded. Speaker Meira Kumar waited till Nirupam completed his statement, and adjourned the House till 2pm. Nirupam's brief and loud rebuttal was made in the midst of the din being raised by the BJP members and the thumping of the tables by the Congress colleagues of Nirupam.
No other opposition party moved into the Well of the House except the BJP. The communists, the Janata Dal (U), the SP, the BSP, the Akali, the Shiv Sena remained seated.