A political slugest erupted on Thursday over liquor baron Vijay Mallya leaving India in the middle of a massive loan default probe with Rahul Gandhi accusing the government of "helping" him, a charge rejected by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who raked up the Bofors case to remind him of Ottavio Quattrocchi's escape during Congress rule.
As the controversy surrounding the beleaguered businessman's departure figured both inside and outside Parliament, Congress leader and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad raised the matter in the Rajya Sabha and accused the NDA government of "criminal conspiracy" in allowing him to fly out of the country. Mallya left on March 2.
When the issue was raised in Lok Sabha, junior Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy asserted Mallya is "no saint for us" and that he has "not been given a single penny" by the NDA Government.
Outside Parliament, a combative Rahul asked how the government allowed Mallya, who owes over Rs 9,000 crore to banks, to leave the country and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jaitley have failed to answer this question in their speeches.
The Congress vice president attacked the government, saying the entire country is questioning why it was "helping" people like Mallya by allowing him to escape and not fulfilling its promises made to people for bringing back black money and "giving Rs 15 lakh into every person's bank account".
He also hit out at the Modi government for bringing the "Fair and Lovely" tax amnesty scheme, saying it only helped thieves, black marketeers and drug mafia to convert their black money into white.
"When a poor man steals, he is beaten up and thrown into jail. Someone who does not have food to eat and steals a roti is beaten up and put behind bars and a big businessmen who steals Rs 9,000 crore from country, you allow him to escape in first class from the country. What is this happening?
"We simply asked that someone who stole Rs 9,000 crore from the country, how did he run away from the country. How did you allow him to escape? This is the simple question and we neither got a reply to this from Modiji nor from Jaitley ji. The question is why did your government allow him to run away from the country," he told reporters.
Jaitley while rejecting Gandhi's charge told reporters that late Quattrocchi, a Bofors case accused, had fled the country under the Congress government watch in 1993.
Raking up the Bofors case that had dogged Rajiv Gandhi government and the Congress for years, Jaitely said, "Rahul ji should remember that there is a basic difference in Mallya leaving (the country) and Quattrochi going out (of India). And let me explain him the difference.
"When the officials of Switzerland informed that Quattrochi was also among the beneficiaries of Bofors and though the person who was heading the CBI investigation earlier, K. Madhavan, wrote a letter that his passport should be impounded, the then government had not stopped him and within two days he left India. That was a criminal case."
Seeking to stress that there is a difference between the two cases, Jaitley also said that by the time he (Mallya left), the banks had not initiated the legal process.
As Congress alleged that Mallya escaped despite 'Look Out Notice" by the CBI, Jaitley said: "That day, there was no order of any agency to stop him (from leaving the country)". He said Mallya had left the country before the banks moved the Supreme Court for seizure of his passport.