Jaitley silent, TV channels to the rescue

Arun Jaitley maintained silence on Friday, but some news channels beamed reports based on "sources" and "investigation" that claimed the finance minister had not stepped inside the Central Hall of Parliament, the alleged venue of his encounter with Vijay Mallya, on March 1, 2016, a day before the industrialist fled India.

By J.P. Yadav
  • Published 15.09.18
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Arun Jaitley. Picture by Prem Singh

New Delhi: Arun Jaitley maintained silence on Friday, but some news channels beamed reports based on "sources" and "investigation" that claimed the finance minister had not stepped inside the Central Hall of Parliament, the alleged venue of his encounter with Vijay Mallya, on March 1, 2016, a day before the industrialist fled India.

Congress Rajya Sabha member P.L. Punia, a former IAS officer, had on Thursday dared the Centre to release parliamentary footage and claimed he saw Jaitley and Mallya, who was an MP at that time, speaking to each other for 15-20 minutes in a corner of the Central Hall on March 1, 2016. The tycoon, whose businesses have defaulted on bank loans of Rs 9,000 crore, fled on March 2 that year.

Jaitley has claimed Mallya had paced up to him while he was leaving Parliament and that there was a forced one-sentence exchange. Neither Jaitley nor Mallya has specified the date of the encounter or its exact venue.

The Central Hall is a two-minute walk from the Rajya Sabha. The finance minister's Parliament office is near the Central Hall. A corridor leads to the hall from the office.

The TV news channels on Friday claimed that on March 1, 2016, Jaitley had reached Parliament House at 10.30am to attend the weekly BJP parliamentary party meeting. After the meeting, he was in the Rajya Sabha as the House commenced for the day at 11am.

Jaitley, the channels claimed, was in the Rajya Sabha from 11am to 11.46am and then left the House for the day to attend an event organised by the comptroller and auditor-general of India at Vigyan Bhavan, a 10-minute car ride from Parliament House.

According to the channels, Jaitley was at Vigyan Bhavan till 1.15pm, attending the CAG event along with then President Pranab Mukherjee. CNN-News 18 ran Doordarshan clips from the day showing Jaitley addressing the event around 1.09pm.

Jaitley, the channels said, left Vigyan Bhavan at 1.15pm and went to his South Block office, where he gave post-budget interviews to TV channels. The channels claimed that Jaitley didn't return to Parliament that day.

When The Telegraph reached Jaitley's residence to enquire whether the minister's office had released details of his March 1, 2016, itinerary, based on which the channels could have tracked his activities on that day, the correspondent was told that nothing had been given out in this regard. The BJP's media department also said it had not released any such itinerary.

There was no activity on Jaitley's Twitter handle on Friday except for the minister greeting people on Hindi Divas.