One of the most controversial arms deal in the history of India resulted in the Bofors scam. It raised questions on the integrity of some very powerful people. Now, after being considered a dead case for many years, the ghost from the past could come back to haunt the Congress party and business tycoons, the Hinduja Brothers. CBI wants to reopen the case and dig deep into the dark corners of the alleged corruption and has asked for the NDA Government’s permission to proceed on the matter.
CBI’s latest interest in the case came after Michael Hershman, a US-based private investigator hired by the then finance minister VP Singh to probe allegations of corruption, revealed on Indian television recently that Rajiv Gandhi was furious when he learned that the investigation was closing in on the nefarious deal and could potentially tarnish Congress reputations forever.
CBI wanted to reopen the case in 2005 itself, but it claims the UPA Government of the time denied them the permission. The anti-corruption body wanted to file a petition in the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court’s order of March 31, 2005, which curiously dismissed all charges against the Hinduja Brothers and the Sweden-based Bofors company, which has been accused of paying bribes to Indian politicians and middlemen that ultimately sealed the deal.
The Indian government had signed a $1.4-billion (Rs. 9,568 crore approximately) defence deal with Swedish arms manufacturer, Bofors, for 410 field howitzer guns in March 1986.
Even if the reinvestigation, and the judgment based on it, once again absolves the alleged guilty parties of crime, it will still hurt the already declining Congress party. It will also once again pull the Hindujas back to the courtrooms for further embarrassment. The 2019 general election is not too far and this will further reduce the credibility of Congress.
The only winner here is the BJP. But for a robust democracy, a strong opposition is essential. Hopefully, CBI will not be used as a puppet to damage the opposition and prop up the party in power.