BJP tour agency for loot-scoot set: Cong

Explain Mallya flight, govt told

By Sanjay K. Jha
  • Published 13.09.18
Arun Jaitley at an event in New Delhi on August 30. (PTI)

New Delhi: Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday night asked finance minister Arun Jaitley to resign till an independent probe reveals the truth about the claim made by fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

After Mallya told journalists in London that he had met Jaitley before leaving India two years ago, Rahul tweeted: "Given Vijay Mallya's extremely serious allegations in London today, the Prime Minister should immediately order an independent probe into the matter. Arun Jaitley should step down as Finance Minister while this probe is underway."

The Congress, which has since March 2016 consistently held that Mallya met the finance minister a day before he fled the country, said on Wednesday that the government's complicity in facilitating the escape had now been established.

Within minutes of the revelation by Mallya, Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala: "Vijay Mallya met Arun Jaitley, sought his permission and ran away with India's money. Chowkidar nahin, bhagidar hai (Not a custodian, a partner)."

Rahul had first aimed the " chowkidar nahin, bhagidar hai" barb at Modi in Parliament, bringing up his promise to voters in 2014 that he would guard over India's wealth and alleging that he had turned a partner in corruption instead.

Only on Tuesday, the Congress released the Modi government's reply in Parliament that said the Prime Minister's Office was aware of complaints against Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi in 2016, long before the uncle and nephew fled the country.

Surjewala said the only objective of the Modi government was to help looters and fugitives and recalled how several people, including Lalit Modi, Nirav Modi and Choksi, had fled India.

In another tweet, he said: "After Mallya reveals his 'consultation meetings' before his smooth escape, with Fiscal Mismanagement Blog Minister Jaitley - one thing is clear - BJP is running 'tour travels & immigration' agency for 'loot scoot & settle abroad' brigade."

Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi asked for an explanation from the government. "The question is how could Mallya escape when the Prime Minister, finance minister and banks knew of the situation. Huge amounts were to be paid and Mallya had made the offer of settlement. We are not making any value judgement but the government has to explain how he was allowed to flee," Singhvi said.

The Congress has been alleging a Mallya-Jaitley meeting since March 2016, the month the liquor baron escaped.

On March 14, 2016, Surjewala had told a news conference that Mallya had met Jaitley before he fled. Surjewala had said: "Mallya was present in Parliament on March 1, 2016, where he reportedly met finance minister Jaitley and had a conversation with him. We all know what happened then, while CBI, banks, SFIOs, SEBI, IT, Service Tax, etc were looking for him, yet he left on March 2."

Surjewala had further said: "People now understand the reason for converting a CBI look-out notice of detention to information only."

Several Congress spokespersons repeated the charge over the last two years.