New Delhi: An
explosive Wikileaks cable that claimed the late Rajiv Gandhi may
have been a middleman for a Swedish firm trying to sell its
fighter aircraft to India has led to a storm, with the Congress
dismissing it as "baseless" and the BJP asking the government to
The Congress slammed the claim in the WikiLeaks cable as
"baseless" and "unfounded".
Congress general secretary Janardan Dwivedi asserted there was no
basis to the allegation against Rajiv Gandhi that he may have
acted as a middleman much before he became prime minister.
He accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of "spreading lies and
Dwivedi also urged the media not to fall for "temporary gains".
"...We are very hurt with the news," he told reporters after The
Hindu newspaper, which as part of a collaboration with WikiLeaks,
accessed and published the cable on its front page.
"Having noted what the Swede has said, the cable makes the comment
that there was no additional information to either refute or
confirm the information. The foundation of the whole story falls
flat here," Dwivedi said, quoting parts of the cable.
The leaked US embassy secret cable claimed that Gandhi was the
"main Indian negotiator" for a massive aircraft deal for which his
"family" connections were seen as valuable.
The cable dated October 21, 1975, says that the "Swedish Embassy
Official has informed us that main negotiator with Swedes on
Viggen (a fighter aircraft) at New Delhi end has been Mrs Gandhi's
older son, Rajiv Gandhi. Latter's only association with aircraft
industry (to our knowledge) has been as pilot for Indian Airlines
and this is first time we heard his name as an entrepreneur."
In another cable, the Swedes said they "understood the importance
of family influences" in the final decision.
The cable adds: "Our colleague describes Ranjiv Gandhi [sic] in
flattering terms, and contends his technical expertise is of a
high level. This may or may not be. Offhand, we would have thought
a transport pilot [is] not the best expert to rely upon in
evaluating a fighter plane, but then we are speaking of a
transport pilot who has another and perhaps more relevant
Dwivedi said: "Today a reputed newspaper of the country has
published a peculiar report. What is a matter of deep regret is
that those sections of media, in whose wisdom, most people in the
country rely have also now begun to believe in sensational news."
He also said that the earlier leaked cables that were published by
Wikileaks were "till date not verified".
"...I do not understand what is the basis of what has been
published in the newspaper today," he added.
Rajiv Gandhi and several others were accused of receiving
kickbacks from Swedish company Bofors AB for winning a bid to
supply India 155 mm field Howitzers.
The Rs.64 crore (approx $12 million) scandal, bigger than any that
India had seen before, led to the defeat of the Congress in the
November 1989 elections.
External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said, "The cables are
not being taken seriously anywhere in the world and I don't know
why we should make an exception."
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, seized the opportunity to
launch an attack on the Congress and sought clarification.
"The WikiLeaks revelations are serious," BJP spokesperson Prakash
Javadekar told reporters.
"They are connected to the first family of Congress. All defence
deals have some relation with the Congress' first family. They
should come clean on this. All the documents should be made
public, and we want the government, Congress and Gandhi family to
come clean," Javadekar told reporters.
Reacting to the BJP attack, Dwivedi said another WikiLeaks cable
also spoke of a big leader of the NDA taking money from the US
intelligence agency CIA.
"If it is accepted that there is any truth in this suspicion
(about Rajiv Gandhi), then just below that cable is one more
report in which the name of a big leader of the NDA figures,"
"I do not want to take his name or level any accusation against
him because of the condition in which he is. But whether that is
also true that he used to get money from the CIA or he had
demanded money from the CIA," he said.
Dwivedi said if the story was stretched, "were the BJP leaders