Jaitley should quit, says Rahul as outrage grows over Mallya's claims

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during a press conference, in New Delhi on Wednesday (File) Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during a press conference in New Delhi | PTI

Even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday evening issued a clarification on his meeting with fugitive Vijay Mallya before the latter fled India, a political storm has erupted over the issue.

Mallya had claimed outside a court in London that he had met Jaitley before leaving India in March 2016. Jaitley responded that Mallya's claims were “factually false” as the encounter happened in Parliament when the liquor baron was a Rajya Sabha MP and was not a formal meeting.

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi led his party's charge, labelling the allegations by Mallya as “extremely serious” in a tweet. He wrote, “Given Vijay Mallya’s extremely serious allegations in London today, the PM should immediately order an independent probe into the matter. Arun Jaitley should step down as FInance Minister while this probe is underway.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, a strident critic of the Narendra Modi government, posted a number of tweets on the Mallya-Jaitley issue, including asking why Jaitley had “hid” this information until now. Kejriwal also asked who had issued “instructions” to change a lookout notice issued against Mallya, which helped the businessman flee India. The CPI(M) also raised the Mallya-Jaitley issue via Twitter, declaring, “Skeletons have started tumbling out of the Modi govt's cupboards!”

Interestingly, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy, for long perceived to be a rival of Jaitley, tweeted about Mallya's claims on Wednesday night and appeared to be pointing fingers at the finance minister by claiming the lookout notice against Mallya was modified on instructions from “someone in the MoF”; MoF is the acronym for Ministry of Finance.

Swamy tweeted, “I learn from my sources that the Lookout Notice issued by CBI for Mallya was modified from “Block Departure” to “Report Departure” on October 24, 2015 on orders from someone in MoF. Who?”

(With agency inputs)