President Pranab Mukherjee has sparked a controversy after he told Swedish national daily Dagens Nyhetter that the Bofors Scandal was a ‘media trial’ and that one should not get carried away by the publicity it received.
In an interview with Dagens Nyhetter on Tuesday, Mukherjee said, “First of all – it is yet to be to be established that there was a scandal. No Indian court has established it. I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, Indian army is using it. The so-called scandal which you talk of, yes, in the media, it was there. There was a media trial. But I’m afraid, let us not be too much carried by publicity.”
“I was the defence minister of the country long after Bofors, and all my generals certified that this is one of the best guns we are having. Till today, the Indian Army is using it,” he added.
In response to the president’s statement, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar avoided the subject by saying, “I can’t comment on that. You will have to ask him (President Mukherjee) under what condition he was in when he spoke. If you ask me, the quality of Bofors is good.”
Ashok Malik, a senior columnist presented disapproval of the statement in his tweet: “A very unfortunate comment on the Bofors scandal by the President. There was more to it than merely a ‘media trial’.”
Shekhar Gupta, chairman of India Today Group, defended President’s statement by tweeting: “Calm down. U really want man in @RashtrapatiBhvn call Bofors a scandal to Swedish press as he goes there? Pranab is a most correct President.”
The Bofors scandal was a major political scandal that broke in 1987 over a $285 million deal between Indian government and a Swedish arms company Bofors for the purchase of Bofors howitzer guns. The scandal led to the defeat of Rajiv Gandhi in the 1989 elections.