The Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress engaged in a slugfest over liquor baron Vijay Mallya. Both parties traded blows in their respective press conferences blaming each other for the fiasco surrounding the industrialist who is being probed in a number of cases by the Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax department and CBI for financial irregularities.
Mallya had taken loans from a consortium of 17 banks led by the State Bank of India to help bail out his ailing Kingfisher airlines. However, in March last year, he left the country with around ₹9,000 crore of unpaid loans and charges of money laundering following as well.
Earlier in the day, the BJP in a press conference alleged that former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram went out of their way for Mallya to secure bail out loans for his now defunct airline. The party spokesperson Sambit Patra also alleged that Mallya had written a letter to both the then Prime Minister and then Finance Minister asking favours.
Patra said: “The first loan to Vijay Mallya was granted in 2004, then again in 2008. Despite his companies declared Non-Performing Assets (NPAs), a restructuring of his loan was done in 2010. The Finance Minister forced the State Bank of India group, which was not willing to give a no-objection certificate for the issue of fresh share to raise funds, to not only issue the NoC, but a direction was given to the bank officials to meet UBL officials,” he said.
In their own press conference where they released a document assessing the ‘real state’ of the Indian economy, Congress took the charges head on arguing that it was under the watch of the BJP that Mallya was allowed to leave the country.
Dr Singh denied any wrongdoing and said, “All prime ministers and other ministers in any government receive representations from various captains of industry which, in the normal course of things, are passed on to appropriate authorities.What I had done was done with full satisfaction that we were not doing anything against the law. It was a normal, routine transaction. The letter that is being talked about is nothing else but an ordinary piece of letter.”
Questioning the allegations made against him and the Congress government, Chidambaram said: “The government receives hundreds of representations everyday, which are not dealt with by ministers. They are marked down to departments concerned who then take apporpriate action. You are looking at one letter that has been leaked. But what about other letters that are received by the ministries?”
Mallya left for the UK on March 2 after the consortium moved the Debt Recovery Tribunal a month earlier seeking expedition of the hearing on their recovery petition. He is believed to be in exile since.