Congress leader PL Punia has claimed that he had seen fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley having a discussion in the Central Hall of Parliament days before the former left India in 2016.
Speaking to the media at a Congress press conference in New Delhi on Thursday, Punia said this can be can verified with CCTV footage from that day, adding that he will resign if his claims are found to be untrue.
Also present at the conference, Congress president Rahul Gandhi said: "The finance minister talks to an absconder, the absconder tells him that he is going to London. The finance minister doesn't tell the CBI, the ED or the police. Why? The arrest notice was changed to informed notice. This can be done only by the one who controls the CBI."
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Besides the Congress, other opposition parties latched on to Mallya's statement he had met Jaitley before leaving India, and demanded a probe into the fugitive liquor baron's claim, which was rubbished by the finance minister as "factually false".
The claim made by Mallya, facing charges of fraud and money laundering amounting to Rs 9,000 crore, has triggered a political storm, with the Congress saying the government must explain how and why Mallya was allowed to leave India.
Jaitley, however, said he never gave Mallya an appointment after becoming a minister in 2014, but the liquor baron misused his position as an MP to accost him once in Parliament.
Soon after Jaitley's rebuttal, Mallya appeared to tone down the seriousness of his claim, saying it was not a "formal meeting" and he only "happened to meet" the minister, when he told him he was going to London. Mallya also said he was not "tipped off" by anyone to flee the country.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, too, described as "absolutely shocking" the revelation by Mallya and asked, "Why did the finance minister hide this information till now?"
"Absolutely shocking. PM Modi meets Neerav (sic) Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know," Kejriwal said on Twitter.
(With agency inputs)