Adding to the extraordinary political controversy that has broken out over the last 24 hours following Vijay Mallya sensationally claiming that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley shortly before he fled India, and the subsequent u-turn, Republic TV has now ascertained details of another meeting, one that did take place just three weeks ago, where two fugitives met with two former ministers.
As per top sources, the meeting took place at Mallya's mansion outside London, and Mallya's fellow absconder Lalit Modi was also present, as were two former UPA-government ministers, one of whom is also a former Chief Minister. The meeting lasted at least a couple of hours, Republic TV has learnt.
Details of the meeting come within hours of both Congress and BJP exchanging a volley of news conferences, the BJP firing rounds 1 and 3 with Sambit Patra and Union Minister Piyush Goyal respectively, and the Congress firing back each time, with party president Rahul Gandhi, PL Punia, and Randeep Surjewala.
In the Congress news briefing Rahul Gandhi had called Arun Jaitley's (and indeed, Mallya's) version of events a lie, and pointed to evidence provided by Congress leader PL Punia who claimed to have seen Mallya and Jaitley engaging in a 15-20 minute meeting on March 1, 2016, a day after that year's Union Budget and a day before Mallya fled from India. Punia, claimed that footage of this would have been captured in the CCTV cameras of the Central Hall of Parliament. However, hours after Punia's statement alongside Rahul Gandhi, when asked about what time he had seen them, Punia said he didn't remember.
The entire controversy had broken out following Mallya, during the recess in his extradition hearing on Wednesday, making an almost offhand remark to journalists that he had met the Finance Minister before leaving India and telling him that he has made a settlement offer.
Within minutes, even as the AAP and Congress pounced on Jaitley, the Finance Minister issued a blog post and a video statement where he said stated that he had not offered Mallya a meeting since the BJP came to power and that Mallya, then a Rajya Sabha member, had once pulled up alongside him while Jaitley was making his way to his room in Parliament and told him that he had made a settlement offer, to which Jaitley said 'talk to the banks'. Remarkably, mere hours later, once the hearing in London had ended, Vijay Mallya came out and corroborated Jaitley's version.