Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday stepped up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi by accusing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of “colluding” with fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya to help him flee the country.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference, Rahul said that Jaitley was lying on the issue that he did not meet Mallya. As first raised by Janta Ka Reporter, the Congress president asked why Jaitley had not informed the investigative agencies about his meeting with Mallya.
He said, “The Finance Minister talks to an absconder (Mallya), and the absconder tells the Finance Minister ‘I am going to London’. Yet the Minister neither tells the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED) or the police. Why?”
“He was given a free passage to leave the country by Jaitley,” said Gandhi and alleged that the logistics of Mallya going out of the country were discussed at that meeting.
“The Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal planning to run away from the country,” IANS quoted Rahul as saying.
He was also joined senior Congress leader PL Punia in the press conference. Punia said that on 1 March, 2016, when he was in the Central Hall of Parliament, he had seen Jaitley and Mallya talking “discretely.” Punia added that he will resign politics if he is proven wrong.
“On March 3, we heard from the media that he (Mallya) fled the country on 2 March. I have clearly stated about this in each of my interview with the media. There are CCTV cameras, we can all see that for proof. If I am wrong, I will resign from politics,” Punia was quoted by PTI.
The story has snowballed into a full-blown controversy after Mallya sensationally revealed in London on Wednesday that Jaitley was aware of his leaving for London as he had informed him about his plans in a meeting with the finance minister.
A nervous Jaitley had quickly taken to Facebook to clarify his stand while not categorically denying Mallya’s claims of meeting. India is currently seeking Mallya’s extradition after he defaulted on bank loans to the tune of Rs 9,000 crore.
Rahul on Wednesday had asked for Jaitley’s resignation and an independent probe into Mallya’s revelations.
Much to the discomfort of Jaitley, an old tweet by BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, hinting at the finance ministry’s involvement in facilitating Mallya’s escape, too has surfaced. In his tweet, posted in June this year, Swamy had alleged that someone very powerful in the Narendra Modi government had changed the lookout notice issued against Mallya to allow the billionaire businessman to leave India.