Mumbai, Dec 31 (PTI) The Congress on Monday hit back at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis over his allegations against its leadership in the AgustaWestland chopper deal. Also Read - Foundation Stone Laid by Sonia Gandhi Goes 'Missing' From Atal Tunnel, Congress Threatens Protest

The Congress said Fadnavis and the BJP levelled the charges to defame UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party president Rahul Gandhi with an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Also Read - Monsoon Session Day 2: Lok Sabha Passes Essential Commodities Bill to Raise Farmer Income, Boost Agri Sector | Highlights

Speaking to the press on Monday, Fadnavis said the probe into the AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case indicated that the Congress was “neck deep” in corruption. He also talked about names of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi surfacing in it. Also Read - Team Rahul vs Veterans: Shashi Tharoor, Others Rally Behind Manmohan Singh Over UPA's Legacy

Seeking to pick holes in BJP’s charges, Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan accused the ruling party of using Christian Michel, an alleged middleman in the deal, for political gains.

He said the previous UPA government had cancelled the chopper purchase deal and even blacklisted its manufacturer, and alleged that it was the present NDA government which had lifted the ban on the company.

He also accused the government of making the firm a part of the ‘Make in India’ mission.

Chavan said that instead of addressing the media on serious issues such as drought, farmer suicides, the Bhima Koregaon violence among others, the chief minister was levelling allegations in connection with the helicopter deal.

“The chief minister has addressed press conference to defame the Congress leadership based on false information in the AgustaWestland chopper deal,” Chavan told reporters here.

Chavan, without naming anyone, claimed that some Union ministers too were slinging mud at the Congress leadership.

“These press conferences (by BJP ministers and leaders) are being held to defame UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi in view of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls,” he added.

Chavan also posed questions to the BJP, seeking to know why the ban on the blacklisted company was lifted, why it was made part of the ‘Make in India’ plan and whether Michel was being used to suppress Rafale ‘scam’.

Asked about Fadnavis calling NCP chief Sharad Pawar an “advocate” of the Congress, Chavan counter questioned as ot whose lawyer the chief minister was.

Earlier in the day, Fadnavis said, “Investigations have been carried out by Italy’s investigative agencies and its reports have also been corroborated by ED’s report. Even Christian Michel has clearly named Sonia Gandhi and hinted at her son Rahul Gandhi. So not only Congress’, but involvement of several other leaders has been established,” Fadnavis told reporters here.

Queried on why NCP chief Sharad Pawar was supporting the Congress over some issues, Fadnavis said Pawar was “aware” of the “corruption”.

“I’m not sure why Pawar is advocating for the Congress,” he added.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.