Update at 13:52 PM: Shehzad Poonawala claims Rahul Gandhi attended Nirav Modi's cocktail party in 2013
Update at 13:24 PM: Rahul Gandhi and PL Punia address news briefing and say the following:
Rahul Gandhi: 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.
PL Punia: 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.
PL Punia: 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.
There are two questions.
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.
It's an open-and-shut case.
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.
Randeep Surjewala: We will do everything within the law to ensure accountability of Modi govt and the Finance Minister.
Rahul Gandhi: The Finance Minister has colluded in a criminal running away from the country.
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.
(To a question) 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. 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?
The BJP has stepped up its defence of Arun Jaitley and turned the heat back on Congress president Rahul Gandhi who had on Wednesday night demanded a probe against the Finance Minister, whom he said should step aside in the interim, over the massive controversy that broke out following Vijay Mallya claiming he had met Jaitley before fleeing India for London.
Union Law & Justice and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has issued a series of tweets on the matter, where he has reiterated what Jaitley had said -- that Mallya walking up to him in Parliament and 'accosting' him doesn't amount to a meeting.
Ravi Shankar Prasad proceeded to cite Rahul Gandhi's recent visit to London, and asked "Are Vijay Mallya and Rahul Gandhi working in tandem?", and then cited Republic TV's super exclusive reveal over how under the UPA-government, the SBI had repeatedly written to the RBI seeking modification of debt restructuring norms for the entire civil aviation sector singularly for the purpose of helping Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines.
He then made a larger point about the NPAs problem being faced by Indian banks, which has recently become a hot political topic, especially in light of former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan tracing the problem to credit that was issued under the UPA government, particularly during 2006-08, and the policy paralysis caused by scams such as the coal scam and other factors because of which appropriate action wasn't taken on NPAs.
Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan also remarked on the issue, saying, "The Finance Minister had responded already. Vijay Mallya took undue advantage of being a member of Rajya Sabha. The people who gave them loans whould be punished also. Those who helped him get these loans are crying foul today."
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had tweeted the following:
The tweet came in light of a statement made by Vijay Mallya during the recess of his extradition hearing in London, when, upon being asked about his March 2016 final departure from India, he said:
"I met the Finance Minister before I left"
At that point, Mallya didn't disclose any additional information. As the court convened again, both the AAP and the Congress jumped on Mallya's words, even as Jaitley issued a statement denying that he had given Mallya a meeting, and recounting a time when Mallya had walked up to him in Parliament and told him about making an offer to settle his debts, to which Jaitley stated he said, 'talk to the bankers'. Shortly after that, when the hearing was adjourned in London, Mallya came out and corroborated what Jaitley had said, making a remarkable u-turn.