- "Kingfisher Airlines was owned by Gandhi parivaar": Sambit Patra
- Rahul Gandhi took a loan of Rs 1 crore from Vijay Mallya, Mr Patra said
- Mr Gandhi said a Congress leader saw Mr Mallya talk to Arun Jaitley
The political battle over Vijay Mallya's yesterday's claim of meeting Union Minister Arun Jaitley raged since morning, with the BJP alleging that it was the Congress and the Gandhi family who were close to the fugitive liquor baron. The BJP said it appears that Congress chief Rahul Gandhi owned the now defunct Kingfisher Airline by proxy and there are "18 pages worth of evidence" about their links.
"Papers show that Kingfisher Airlines was not owned by Mallya but by the Gandhi parivaar," BJP spokesman Sambit Patra said at a press conference.
Reading out from one of a bunch of papers, which he said were evidence of the links between the Congress and the wanted tycoon, Mr Mallya said the loans to the now defunct airline were restructured twice -- in 2008 and 2012. The second time it was done by the request of the government, he added, citing what he said were letters from the Reserve Bank of India. The government requests, he said, mentioned that the favour should be extended "only for Kingfisher,"
"That he and his mother Sonia Gandhi used to get free business upgrade (in Kingfisher flights) is something which is in the public domain," Mr Patra added.
In London for the hearing of his extradition case, Vijay Mallya -- who is wanted on charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to around Rs. 9,000 crore -- said he met Mr Jaitley before leaving India in 2016. The finance minister dismissed it as "factually false" and said Vijay Mallya had accosted him in the corridor of parliament. Later, Vijay Mallya too backtracked, confirming the minister's version of events.
"The appointment was not done in corridor but in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office. Manmohan Singh helped Kingfisher Airlines... Sonia, Rahul-ji, please hold a press conference and provide answers to this," Sambit Patra said.
At a press conference minutes later, Rahul Gandhi said one of its leaders had witnessed Arun Jaitley and Vijay Mallya having a discussion in parliament just two days before the fugitive tycoon's flight to the UK.
"It was a 15-20 minute, sit-down meeting...The finance minister has to explain to the country why he has colluded with the criminal and why was he having a meeting with a criminal," he added.
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