New Delhi, Sep 13: Charging Finance Minister Arun Jaitley with 'colluding in a criminal running away of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya from the country', Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday demanded his resignation from the post.
Addressing an urgent press conference, Mr Gandhi sought to drag Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the murky political row of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya and urged Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to clarify whether 'someone from top' had ordered him to conceal Mallya's plans to leave India.
"Arun Jaitley should clarify whether it was all his decision.....or if someone from top ordered him, he should speak out that too. In this government Prime Minister decides everything......Arun Jaitley listens to the Prime Minister. So Jaitleyji should tell clearly whether he allowed the 'criminal' (Mallya) to flee India ...or there were orders from the Prime Minister," Mr Gandhi said.
Mr Gandhi alleged that Mr Jaitley was 'lying' when he said he just had an informal meeting with Mallya.
He alleged that Vijay Mallya and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley were witnessed by Congress leader P L Punia having a discussion in Parliament just two days before the fugitive tycoon's flight to the UK.
"Arun Jaitley is lying, Congress leader PL Punia witnessed his meeting with Vijay Mallya," Mr Gandhi said.
Speaking on the issue, Mr Punia said he had seen Mr Mallya and the finance minister speak in the Central Hall of parliament in March 2016, when the industrialist left India and flew to the UK.
"I was in the central hall of Parliament House. I saw Jaitley and Mallya talking in the corner. After 5-7 minutes, they sat on the bench and started talking. Mallya had come for the first time just to meet Jaitley," Mr Punia said.
"It was a sit down meeting for about 20 minutes in the Central Hall of Parliament," Mr Gandhi said.
Challenging Mr Jaitley to disprove his statement, Mr Punia said,'there is CCTV footage available...there is proof of meeting between Jaitley and Mallya. First they spoke standing and then sat on a bench of the Central Hall of Parliament. It seemed a very intimate meeting. I challenge Jaitley on this meeting...If I am right, Jaitley has to quit politics and if I am wrong, I will do so....For last two-half-years, Jaitley never mentioned about this meeting.'
"After that on March 3 -- he left for London on March 2 -- my reaction was, he met Jaitley two days ago," the Congress leader said.
The statement by Mr Gandhi came a day after the Finance Minister rubbished Vijay Mallya's claim that he had met him before leaving for London in 2016.
Charging Mr Jaitley with 'colluding in a criminal running away of fugitive businessman Vijay mallya from the country', Mr Gandhi reiterated the demand for his resignation on the matter.
'Vijay Mallya said on Wednesday that he met Arun Jaitley ji in the Parliament before leaving. Arun Jaitley writes blogs on all meetings but I don't know why there was no blog by him on this meeting.
He (FM) said he spoke only a few words to him (Vijay Mallya), which is a lie.
However, even if he (Mallya) caught up with you in the corridor why did you not tell the CBI, ED that he's going to flee, catch him? Why? The arrest notice was changed to informed notice. This can be done only by the one who controls CBI. This is clearly a collusion, there is definitely a deal. Finance Minister should clearly say what transpired and he should resign,'Mr Gandhi said.
'The government is lying on Rafale. The govt is lying on Vijay Mallya. He was given a free passage out of the country by the Finance Minister,' he said. (UNI)