New Delhi:  Targeting Defence Minister A K Antony for "inaction" in the Tatra truck deal even when alerted through a letter in May 2008, the BJP on Monday wondered if the minister was "under pressure" at that time and sought an explanation from the Prime Minister.
      
"What prompted Antony to become inactive on this issue? Who's pressure was it? At whose behest these sudden changes in procurement criteria were made. Government owes an explanation. Prime Minister owes and explanation," BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar told reporters here on Monday.
      
Bringing out a communication of May 12, 2008 seeking a probe into the purchase of Tatra trucks by party MP from Jabalpur Rakesh Singh, the BJP said Antony was "misleading" the nation by stating that he acted promptly when the matter was brought to his notice.
      
Javadekar said "they must come out.... Because, independent inquiry is only possible if the government comes out clearly and it is a court-monitored inquiry."
      
BJP MP from Jabalpur Rakesh Singh claimed that he had written to the Defence Minister on May 12, 2008 with a request for investigation of alleged favouritism in procurement of high-mobility vehicles and Antony had replied to him on May 30, 2008, saying "I am having the matter looked into".
      
Though Singh also pointed out that even though indigenous 6X6 vehicles were manufactured and tested in Vehicle Factory in Jabalpur, the same were not bought by the Defence Ministry and the Tatra-BEML vehicles were purchased instead.
      
The BJP MP also said that even after Antony's promise of looking into the matter, when nothing happened on the issue, he raised the matter in the Lok Sabha.

Jabalpur BJP MP Rakesh Singh said Antony was the Defence minister in 2008 and he cannot claim that he did not have information on the deal and the alleged scam.
   
"It is like a fraud on people of the nation.... I demand that the Defence Minister should resign.... If he is honest, then even after knowing all the wrongs why did he allow this scam. If the Prime Minister's office is not involved, the Defence Minister should be removed and take forward the probe," Singh said.
      
Javadekar said "the matter is very clear now. Tatra is a big scam of Rs 3,000 crore... he (Antony) was alerted on this."
      
In his letter to Antony in May 2008, Rakesh Singh had demanded that a competent expert committee be constituted to investigate the alleged irregularities in the Tatra truck deal.
   
Singh said in his letter, "As per formulated policy, high mobility vehicle 6X6 was jointly developed by Vehicle Factory Jabalpur and Ashok Leyland and was approved for induction in the year 2000. Final specifications, however, were issued only in the year 2007."
   
"It is quite surprising that during this intervening period aprox 1990 high mobility vehicles were procured in the mix of 4X4 and 6X6 majority being in the 4X4 configuration against deviation on an adhoc basis from BEML-TATRA citing operational requirements. Question of operational requirement between 2000 and 2007 is beyond imaginations as there had been no hostile activities on the borders," Singh pointed out.
   
Pointing out to the proposal for amending the "GSQR 486" even though no major technological advancement or changes in legislation concerning safety emission norms or operational parameters have taken place, the Jabalpur MP said, "Such contemplated amendment without any procurement is totally uncalled for and leaves ample scope to believe that proposed changes in GSQR 486 is being made with ulterior motive."
   
Seeking to know why indigenously developed vehicles were not ordered, the BJP MP also pointed out to the cost difference between the indigenous and Tatra trucks, saying "the vehicle 6X6 procured from BEML-TATRA is totally imported costing around Rs 65 lakh. Whereas, the same vehicle from VFJ is an indigenous with a better quality and less cost of around Rs 30 lakh".
   
Singh also questioned the alleged role of businessman Ravi Rishi in the recently scrapped Eurocopter defence deal. Rishi was quizzed by CBI in connection with the Tatra case.

(Agencies)