On the day former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released a document on the state of Indian economy and claimed that it was in a bad shape, the BJP on Friday accused him and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram of helping businessman Vijay Mallya secure bank loans for sinking Kingfisher Airlines during the UPA’s tenure. Singh said that he had done nothing against the law of the land.
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A day ahead of the Budget Session, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra showed letters purportedly written by Mallya to Singh in which he sought the then PM’s intervention for getting his loans cleared. In one letter released by the BJP, Mallya ostensibly sought Singh’s intervention to get funds from banks released immediately. In another letter, Mallya said that he was very “relieved” and “pleased”, apparently referring to developments in the interim, according to Patra.
In his letter, Mallya also said that T K A Nair, the then principal secretary to PM, “immediately spoke to the concerned people in the ministry involved”, but added that Nair then went with the PM on an official trip to the US and “despite my follow up in his absence we have not received any relief thus far”.
Patra said: “The first loan was granted to Vijay Mallya in 2004 and then on February 7, 2008. Despite his companies declared NPA, restructuring of his loan was done on December 21, 2010. Even the Supreme Court had asked as to why the banks continued to lend money if they had managed to recover only one-tenth of what they had given…”
Trying to corner the Congress, he said: “How is it that a businessman like Vijay Mallya procured loans worth Rs 9,000 crore without proper paper work, without proper accounts? And how could he dupe a consortium of banks and the Government of India is a question which has been looming large.”
The Congress dismissed the allegation based on the “leaked” letters, saying it is “normal” for PMs and ministers to forward representations received through various industries and organisations to departments concerned for appropriate action. It also accused the BJP of allowing Mallya to flee the country.
Manmohan Singh, who spoke to the media at the AICC office, said that all PMs and ministers in government receive representations from various organisations and industry captains, which they pass to appropriate authorities in the normal course of things.
Calling it a “normal, routine transaction”, he said the letter being talked about is “an ordinary piece of paper”, a letter which any government in his position could have dealt with in a similar manner. He added that whatever he had done was “not against the law of the land”.
Patra also trained guns on Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. “The hands which pulled the strings to ensure that Mallya received loans are visible now. They belonged to Chidambaram and Singh…Did the hands of 10 Janpath also pull the strings? Sonia and Rahul Gandhi should come out in public to say at whose behest the loans were sanctioned to Kingfisher Airlines,” he said.
The BJP also said that it was after Mallya’s letter to Singh on November 14, 2011 that the then PM told the media that “we have to find ways to get Kingfisher out of trouble”.
Patra cited another letter that the liquor baron purportedly wrote to Chidambaram in March 2013 to seek his intervention in getting an NOC from the SBI, which headed the consortium of banks that had given unrecovered loans to the airline and its subsidiaries. This was at a time when Mallya’s liquor company was in talks with Diageo for a deal.
Chidambaram said: “The letter does not concern Kingfisher, it concerns United Spirits Limited, which was and is a thriving, flourishing, profitable company. The letter does not talk about any loan, the letter talks about an NOC for a preferential allotment of shares. That is capital, equity, not loans.”
The former Finance Minister also said that the loans that are under investigation were given in 2009, when he was not the Finance Minister.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala questioned the BJP, saying, “Who waived
Rs 1,200 crore owed by Mallya to State Bank of India? Who is the helping hand for Mallya in the BJP? Did the BJP not vote for him to bring him to Rajya Sabha? Instead of levelling senseless allegations, BJP needs to answer why the Modi government has not sought Mallya’s deportation from UK.”