New Delhi, September 13: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday attacked the government over fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya’s exit from the country in 2016, demanding that finance minister Arun Jaitley resign over what he called an act of “collusion” with Mallya.
Gandhi alleged the minister knew about Mallya’s plan to flee the country but did not alert the probe agencies. “This is a clear-cut case of collusion. There is some deal between them. Finance Minister Jaitley must resign and this should be investigated,” he said, a day after Arun Jaitley denied that he had a meeting with Mallya before he fled the country in 2016.
At a press conference on Thursday, Gandhi also targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Why did Jaitley allow Mallya to escape, or was it an order from the prime minister?” he said.
In a statement yesterday Arun Jaitley dismissed Vijay Mallya’s claim that he had a meeting with the minister before leaving the country in which he offered to settle his unpaid loans. Jaitley said Mallya did try to start a conversation when he was on his way out of the Rajya Sabha in 2016 and recalled “curtly” telling him that he should talk to the banks about his outstanding loans.
Rahul Gandhi today insisted that the meeting between the minister and Mallya had gone on for much longer in parliament’s central hall on March 1, 2016. Also at the press conference was Congress leader PL Punia, who claimed that he had witnessed the meeting, alleging that Jaitley and Mallya had initially spoken for about 5-7 minutes in one corner of the hall and later sat down on the bench. In all, the two spoke for about 15-20 minutes, Punia said.
“There are CCTV cameras, we can all see that for proof. If I am wrong, I will resign from politics,” Punia said.
“This is an open and shut case” where an economic offender talks to the minister before fleeing to London within days of this meeting, the Congress president stressed at the briefing, minutes after the BJP accused the previous UPA government of giving a “sweet deal” to the beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines to keep it afloat.
“Sometimes it seems the airline was not owned by Mallya, but by the Gandhi family in proxy,” BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said, adding that Rahul Gandhi, who is out on bail in the National Herald case, had no right to question others on corruption.
Vijay Mallya, a liquor baron who founded the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, fled to the UK allegedly when a group of banks launched efforts to recover around Rs. 9,000 crore from him.
Mallya, 62, who is fighting India’s request to the UK to send him back, is wanted in India for defaulting on loans worth crores and money.
The court decision on Mallya’s extradition is expected on December 10. (Agencies)