Jaitley-Mallya meeting a 'clear-cut collusion', says Rahul

rahul-congress-pti Congress President Rahul Gandhi addresses a press conference regarding Vijay Mallya's allegations, in New Delhi, Thursday | PTI

Turning up the heat on Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over economic fugitive Vijay Mallya's claims that he had met him before leaving for London, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday accused him of colluding with the businessman, giving him a free passage out of India, and demanded that he should resign from government.

Gandhi also charged that contrary to Jaitley's claims that Mallya had paced up to him in the corridors of Parliament and said something briefly to him, the pair had a proper meeting of around 15-20 minutes in the Central Hall of Parliament on March 1, 2016, which was just two days before the businessman flew off to London.

“It is an open-and-shut case. An economic offender, before running off to London, talks to the finance minister in Parliament House for 15-20 minutes. The finance minister lies, says no, he caught me in the corridor, and told me that he is going to London. Even if he caught you in the corridor and told you he is going to London, why did you not tell the CBI and the ED that he is going to run away, put him in jail,” Gandhi told a press conference at the AICC headquarters.

Gandhi also asked why the arrest notice on Mallya was turned into an informed notice. And, bringing Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the picture, he said, “In the government, it is the prime minister who decides everything. Arun Jaitleyji listens to him. So clearly, Arun Jaitleyji should tell us if he let the criminal run away from India, or if the order came from Modiji.”

Calling it is a case of “clear-cut collusion”, and alleging that some deal was struck, Gandhi demanded that Jaitley should resign as finance minister.

Meanwhile, AICC General Secretary P.L. Punia, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP, said he was witness to the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya in Parliament on March 1. He refuted Jaitley's claim that it was a brief exchange of words, with Mallya catching up with him in the corridors of Parliament. He said the two met for around 15-20 minutes in the Central Hall of Parliament, and they had a proper discussion.

“They were standing in a corner and talking. And they were engrossed in an intense discussion. After five to seven minutes, they sat on a bench in the Central Hall, and continued talking,” Punia said. The Congress leader said he was witness to the meeting as he was present in the Central Hall at that time.

“Vijay Mallya, in that session, came to Parliament only on March 1. He had come only to meet Arun Jaitleyji. After that, on March 3, when it came out in the newspapers that he left for London on March 2, my immediate reaction was he had met Arun Jaitleyji only two days ago. After that I mentioned it in all my media bytes and debates, without exception. I mentioned that just two days back Vijay Mallya had met Arun Jaitleyji,” Punia said.

He said that it was clear that Mallya, before leaving for London, had come to Parliament to consult Jaitley on the issue.