A fresh war of words broke out between the BJP and Congress over Vijay Mallya on Thursday with Congress president Rahul Gandhi seeking Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s resignation over “free passage” given to the fugitive businessman and the BJP hitting out by alleging that the UPA government gave “sweet deals” to him and that Gandhi family “partially owned the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines through proxy”.
The ruling party rejected the demand for Jaitley’s resignation and instead sought to turn the tables on the Congress by asking Rahul Gandhi to quit in
view of his involvement in National Herald case.
The day saw two press conferences each by the Congress and the BJP with Gandhi coming to party’s central office to attack Jaitley.
It came a day after Mallya said he had met Jaitley and the Union minister rubbished the claim of any formal meeting.
Gandhi accused Jaitely of “colluding” with Mallya who is facing charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs 9,000 crore.
He asked why Jaitley did not inform the investigating agencies about Mallya’s plans to leave India.
“There is a clear-cut collusion. He (Jaitley) should have confessed (about the meeting) and he should resign. The Finance Minister talks to an absconder (Mallya) and the absconder tells the Finance Minister that I am going to London. The Finance Minister neither told the CBI, the ED or the police; why?
“He was given a free passage to leave the country by the Finance Minister. There was a lookout notice against Mallya which was diluted to an inform notice. Who changed it? This can be done only by one who controls the CBI,” he alleged.
Gandhi also demanded to know if the decision was taken by Jaitley himself or the “order came from the top”.
“The Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal running away from the country. He was told by the criminal that he is going to run away, but the Finance Minister did nothing. The government is lying on Rafale, they are lying on Mallya”.
At the media conference, Congress MP P L Punia claimed to give an eyewitness account of the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya in the Central Hall of Parliament before the businessman fled the country on March 2, 2016.
Punia claimed the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya lasted 15-20 minutes and asked if Mallya had taken permission from Jaitley about his planned flight abroad.
Hitting out at the Congress, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that there were documents that show how the RBI and the UPA under Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh had given sweet deals to Kingfisher Airlines.
“And it appears through these chain of documents that Kingfisher Airlines was owned not by Mallya but by the Gandhi family through proxy,” he alleged showing the letters written by the RBI to the SBI requesting for the restructuring of the loans of Kingfisher Airlines.
The accuracy of the documents could not be ascertained. There was no immediate response from Rahul Gandhi’s office.
Patra also alleged that the party has enough evidence which shows that Rahul Gandhi was “using black money” and the Gandhi family was helping Mallya with sweet deals.
He claimed that Rahul Gandhi travelled free in Kingfisher Airlines, which was once owned by Mallya.
“Rahul Gandhi took Rs 1 crore loan from a shell company; we have the confession of the company director,” Patra alleged.
At another press conference, Congress communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala posed specific questions to the Modi government.
“Why was no action taken against Vijay Mallya for the bank fraud despite registration of an FIR by the CBI on July 29, 2015? Who asked the CBI to change its lookout notice of October 16, 2015 into a mere ‘inform notice’ on November 23, 2015? Who directed the banks to delay filing of the case in the Supreme Court,” he asked.
Earlier in the day, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters that all the allegations against Jaitley were “false”.
“All these remarks are being made after Rahul Gandhi’s London visit. Is there anything common between them (Mallya and Rahul Gandhi)?” he asked.
Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, who addressed a press conference at the BJP headquarters, said Rahul Gandhi was “facing serious criminal charges” and that he “should first resign.”
He also dismissed the claims of Punia about Mallya meeting Jaitley in the Central Hall of Parliament.