The former Union minister said, "This is an extremely serious issue and we would like the BJP government's response from the highest levels

NEW DELHI: The Congress today asked Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to respond to the "serious" allegation that kickbacks to the tune of Rs 17.55 crore were paid for the procurement of spares of AN-32 military aircraft by India.

At a press conference, Congress leader Manish Tewari, citing a media report on the alleged kickbacks, also demanded that the government should come out with details of the contract and not sweep it under the carpet "as was the case" in the Rafale deal.

The media report said Ukraine's National Anti-Corruption Bureau has sent a request to the Ministry of Home Affairs seeking legal assistance in its probe into the alleged kickbacks, besides help in identifying defence ministry officials who participated in the negotiations, signing and implementation of the deal.

"There seems to be trouble in paradise, the Ministry of Defence," Tewari said, adding that the contract for the AN-32 spares was signed in November 2014 during the tenure of the BJP-led NDA government.

Tewari raised five questions over the defence deal and sought the reply of the government saying he hoped that it would "not sweep the matter under the carpet".

He asked whether it is a fact that the anti-corruption bureau of Ukraine sought legal assistance from the home ministry in February this year.

The Congress leader said the government "misused" the confidentiality clause and hid behind it following allegations of wrongdoing in the Rafale deal.

Tewari sought to know whether it is a fact that the terms of contract were not fulfilled and the ministry of defence signed a statement of completion which facilitated the transfer of the alleged illegal gratification.

"This is actually the nub of the entire issue and the government must respond. What has been the response so far of the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defence to the request of the Ukrainian government?" he said.

All the details such as whether any internal process has been initiated by the Ministry of Defence in the wake of the alleged scam should be made public, he said.

"If this government believes in transparency and probity and if it abides by the slogan of 'na khata hun, na khane deta hun' ((we don't take bribes nor let others to do so), then why have you been hiding these facts from the people. The moment the request came from the Ukrainian government it should have been put out in the public space," he said.

The former Union minister said, "This is an extremely serious issue and we would like the BJP government's response from the highest levels.

"Since the honourable defence ministry holds fort on all and sundry 24/7, we do hope she would take the time out to respond to something which pertains to her ministry," he said.

India signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September last year for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs 58,000 crore.

The Congress recently raised several questions about the contract and accused the government of compromising national interest and security while promoting "crony capitalism" and causing a loss to the public exchequer.

The government had refused to divulge the details of the deal, citing a confidentiality pact between India and France.