A controversial link has emerged between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and absconding wilful defaulter and liquor baron Vijay Mallya.
The link is none other than Rahul Gandhi's current close aide and social media chief Divya Spandana, who used to work for Mallya before his Kingfisher Airlines went defunct. Spandana, also known as Ramya, was a brand ambassador for Mallya's IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), it has emerged, and the then 'King of good times' had even seemingly sponsored her for a Hong-Kong trip in 2010.
In a 2010 tweet, Divya Spandana wrote:
"Highlights 2010: RCB fav team, the best team, memorable and fond memories:o) a big thank you to Mr Vijay Mallya. My 1st holiday to hongkong"
In 2012, the year in which she joined the Congress party, Divya Spandana issued a set of tweets defending Vijay Mallya, calling him 'nice' and 'genuine'.
"I really hope kingfisher gets out of this mess. I enjoyed my flights so far. Mr Mallya is one of the nicest, genuine people I know."
Despite backing Mallya earlier, Divya Spandana in June 2017 issued an attack at the External Affairs minister over Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya, writing:
"Another digression from failed economy, farmer protests, lynching, Aadhar, Adani and where is Lalit Modi & Vijay Mallya @SushmaSwaraj ji?"
The Bengaluru-born Spandana, who is a former Lok Sabha MP from the Mandya constituency, had earlier won two Filmfare Awards South for her performances in the Kannada film industry.
While her political profile has grown in recent months, she has often issued controversial political attacks, most notably when she declared the Chief Justice of India (CJI) a bench fixer.
Mallya left India in March 2016 and owes a consortium of Indian banks over Rs 9000 crore. Mallya has been declared a proclaimed offender by a PMLA court and in October 2017, was arrested as part of a money-laundering case in London. Mallya is currently out on bail. India has made moves to extradite him from the UK. In 2017, Republic TV had broken an exclusive story of how Vijay Mallya had been approached by a number of politicians, including the office of then Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi for business class upgrades.
The BJP has questioned the Congress on the Spandana-Mallya link, with Amit Malviya tweeting:
Following the story being published, Divya Spandana issued a direct reply. She wrote: