The extradition of Christian Michel, the alleged middleman in the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland chopper deal, to India on Tuesday (December 4) happens at an opportune time for the ruling BJP at the Centre. Conversely, the opposition Congress would have been the last one to expect this development.
Christian Michel’s extradition to India from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) comes barely three days before Rajasthan and Telangana go to polls on December 7.
With Christian Michel’s extradition, the BJP gets a godsend opportunity to showcase its fight against corruption on the last day of campaigning for the Rajasthan and Telangana assembly elections.
The BJP is fighting a hard battle, particularly in Rajasthan where the voters are known to change governing parties in every assembly elections for the past 25 years.
Moreover, Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been on the offensive attacking the BJP and launching a personal assault on Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the fugitive businessmen such as Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksi, Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi.
The refrain of Rahul Gandhi, in almost all his election speeches, has been that “chowkidar chor hai (the watchman is a thief)”.
But with Christian Michel’s return, the BJP will ensure that the tables are turned on the Congress and its first family – the Nehru-Gandhis.
The BJP would have just wished that the extradition should have taken place before November 12 so that it could have drawn political mileage in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh (MP) and Mizoram assembly elections as well. While Chhattisgarh faced elections on November 12 and 20, MP and Mizoram went to the polls on November 28.
However, the BJP appears to make the most of the two-odd days before Rajasthan and Telangana go to polls. And it has already displaying its aggression.
BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao claimed it as a diplomatic victory for India and which could mean “serious trouble” for the Congress’s “first family”.
“Extradition of Christian Michel is a shot in the arm for the Narendra Modi government. Now that he will be available to the CBI, the ‘real’ bribe-receivers of the AgustaWestland bribes scandal will be exposed,” he said.
Talking to Indiatoday.in, former Union minister Manish Tewari raised questions over the timing of Christian Michel’s extradition. “The timing is obviously questionable. Therefore, we will have to wait and see.”
However, he said it will not have any impact on the prospects of the Congress in Rajasthan and Telangana. “The Congress is in a comfortable position in both the states. Moreover, elections are fought on bread and butter issues,” he said.
However, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli disagreed with the timing issue.
“How can the timing be questioned? The process of Christian Michel’s extradition has been going on for several years. Only after foreign countries took a decision that the extradition is taking place. Creating a false narrative around the timing is testimony that some people are certainly keen that the truth must not emerge,” Nalin Kohli told Indiatoday.in.
Asked about the fallout which Christian Michel’s extradition would have on the upcoming Rajasthan and Telangana assemnly elections, Nalin Kohli said it was a confirmation of the commitment of the Modi government to relentlessly pursue the corrupt who have fled the shores of India seeking to escape the due process of law.
“The citizens of the country are entitled to make a comparison between the previous dispensations and the Modi government with regard to the fight against corruption,” he added.
But Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi sought to claim victory for the Congress. She claimed that it was the Congress-led UPA which had initiated the investigation at the mere hint of kickbacks in the VVIP chopper deal and blacklisted the agency.
She told Indiatoday.in that it was the NDA led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi which lifted the ban and used the ongoing investigation to target the Opposition.
“Christian Michel has gone on record to state how the Indian government under the present dispensation forced him to implicate some names from the Opposition. The Italian High Court has dismissed the Agusta Westland case. This shows the desperation of the BJP. And while we welcome any step that leads to conclusion of the investigation, we wonder if the BJP is seriously keen on conclusion or rather obfuscation and allegation,” Priyanka Chaturvedi added.
On the ramifications of Christian Michel’s extradition on the Rajasthan and Telangana polls, Priyanka Chaturvedi said the state elections are fought on issues concerning the states. “The BJP having failed to deliver good governance is now only trying to clutch at straws to change the mind of the voters. However, the people have seen through their agenda,” she said.
However, BJP’s GVL Narasimha Rao claimed that Michel was “known to be a Gandhi-family loyalist” and said “his extradition and custody could spell serious trouble for the Congress’ first family”.
At this crucial and delicate juncture, while the BJP tries to hype Christian Michel’s extradition, the Congress leaders seek to downplay the latest development.
News credit : indiatoday