Congress President Rahul Gandhi held a news conference in New Delhi on Thursday aiming to corner Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over the statement Vijay Mallya had made in London on Wednesday -- regarding meeting Jaitley before fleeing from India -- despite Mallya's subsequent u-turn denying that it had been a formal meeting, rather than Mallya, then a Rajya Sabha MP, chasing down Jaitley and them having one-line-exchange. Rahul Gandhi stated that the Finance Minister's denial about the meeting with Mallya was a "lie" and added that he has brought "evidence" to prove it.
While addressing the news briefing along with PL Punia and Randeep Surjewala, the Congress President said:
"What Arun Jaitley said yesterday that Mallya came behind him and said a few words is a lie and today we've brought evidence. Punia ji is here. He has with his own eyes seen the meeting - it was a 15-20 minute sit-down meeting. Punia ji will tell you about it", said Rahul Gandhi while addressing the media.
PL Punia took over and revealed the details of the meeting between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Vijay Mallya that he claimed to have witnessed.
"It's about the Budget time of 2016. On March 1, after Budget day, I was seated in Parliament's Central Hall, and Vijay Mallya and Jaitley were standing together and talking together. They continued to talk. Vijay Mallya had come to meet Jaitley", he revealed.
"On March 3, when media printed that Mallya had left, my reaction was that it was just 2 days ago that Jaitley and Mallya had met. In all interviews and debates, I said that they had met. For 2.5 years they kept silent. There were debates in Parliament but he never disclosed this. I say that there are CCTV cameras there. See the footage from March 1, if it happened. Either I will leave politics or he should", he added.
"1. How can the Finance Minister have a meeting with an absconder? Why did FM of the time not inform ED, CBI and Police that Mallya was going to leave for London?
2. The restrain notice against Mallya -- who made it an inform notice? Only the person who can control the CBI can do this. If Jaitley did this, then he should say, and if the order came from above, he should say"
"If he caught you in the corridor and told you he's going to London, why didn't you tell the CBI? There's clear-cut collusion. There's a deal. The FM should state what happened and resign immediately. The Finance Minister has colluded in a criminal running away from the country", he added.
"In government, the PM decides everything. And the FM listens to the PM. Let Arun Jaitley say whether he let a criminal escape or whether the order came from above. It can't be a coincidence. FM has admitted that Mallya told him he's going to London. And yet, FM took no action, didn't inform agencies? Why? What was the reason? What was the deal? There's a notice to restrain Mallya. Why is the notice changed to inform, not restrain? Only PM and FM could have. FM is lying. The meeting was held, logistics of Mallya leaving were discussed. Mallya was given free passage to run away. Why did you let him run away? Why didn't you stop him?", Rahul Gandhi concluded.