Congress president Rahul Gandhi Thursday accused Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of colluding with fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya, claiming there was evidence of the two meeting in Parliament for over 15 minutes. “He (Jaitley) had not informed ED, CBI. What does it mean? He has to explain why when a criminal has told him he is running away to London, he has done nothing,” Gandhi said, addressing a press conference at the party headquarters.
On Wednesday, Mallya claimed that he had met Jaitley in Parliament before leaving the country in 2016. Mallya also said he had offered to settle bank loans. Jaitley has rubbished the claims.
Also at the press conference, Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP PL Punia alleged that he saw Mallya meeting Jaitley in Parliament on March 1, adding that the meeting lasted for about 15 minutes first at a corridor and then at Central Hall. Punia’s charge contradicts that of Jaitley who on Wednesday claimed he snubbed Mallya and did not engage in a conversation with him.
Arun Jaitly is lying. I saw him having prolonged meeting in Central Hall of Parliament about two days before he was allowed to escape from India. Choukidar is not only Bhagidar but also Gunahagar. @INCIndia @INCChhattisgarh https://t.co/VJkDk1ZCkK
— P L Punia (@plpunia) September 12, 2018
Punia further claimed records would show that Mallya signed in the attendance register on March 1, 2016. “On 1st March 2016, when I was in Central Hall of Parliament House, I witnessed Arun Jaitley and Vijay Mallya talking discretely. On 3rd March, we heard from media that he fled the country on 2nd March, 2016… Bring out the CCTV footage of Parliament complex. Let’s see who has spoken the truth. Either I will quit politics or he will have to,” Punia said.
Demanding that Jaitley resign, Gandhi said: “Finance Minister is responsible to take action against economic offenders. Finance minister himself is meeting them. Finance minister has admitted that Mallya told him he is going to London. Yet the Finance Minister took no action. Did not inform CBI, ED or other arms of the govt. Why? What was the deal? There is a notice to restrain Mr Mallya. That notice is changed from a restrain notice to an inform notice. Who did it? There are only two people – Prime Minister and Finance Minister,” he alleged.
Arun Jaitley’s initial response
Earlier in the day, Jaitley, speaking to news agency ANI, said: “I have never given him an appointment. Never at my office, never at my residence. Nor have I ever offered to meet him. I do remember on one occasion he misused his privileges as member of Rajya Sabha and while I was walking out of Rajya Sabha to my room, he paced up towards me in Parliament building and suggested that he was going to make some offer of settlement. I did not even bother to get any detail from him. I curtly told him he must go and make it to the bankers because I was fully aware that he had been bluffing on several occasions in the past and he had no intention of paying back the banker’s money.”
— ANI (@ANI) September 12, 2018
“Besides this one-sentence exchange where he literally barged on to me while I was walking and tried to make some offer or suggestion which I refused to entertain, there is no question of my having met him, spoken to him… I even did not receive any paper from him at that time. And therefore, to convey an impression that he met me with an offer of settlement and if this is what he is referring to then this is not correct and he must come out with the complete facts,” Jaitley said.