Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Monday dismissed BJP’s charges that they had helped Vijay Mallya get bank loans during UPA’s tenure, even as Congress hit back raising a series of questions asking who let the beleaguered businessmen flee.
Ahead of the Budget Session, BJP alleged Congress has been pushed against the wall as “corrupt hands” of Singh and Chidambram ensured bank loans to Mallya’s “sinking” Kingfisher Airlines.
The party quoted from purported letters written by businessman Mallya to Singh in which he sought his intervention following which his now defunct company received loans.
Both Singh and Chidambaram insisted that letters from captains of industry were routine and were “marked down” to appropriate authorities and no law of the land was violated.
“I think what I have done was done with a full satisfaction of mine that we were not doing anything which was against law of the land,” Singh said rubbishing the charges at a press conference jointly addressed by him and Chidambaram at AICC headquarters.
Singh said all Prime Ministers and other Ministries in any government receives representations from various captains of industry.
“In normal course... we pass on these to appropriate authorities. It was a normal routine transaction and therefore the letter that is being talked about is nothing but an ordinary piece of letter which any government in my position would have dealt with,” he said.
Chidambaram, on his part, said the hundreds of representations received in the government are not dealt by Ministers themselves.
“No Minister can deal with each one of these representations. They are marked down to departments and officers concerned, who will then take appropriate follow-up action,” he said, adding that there was “absolutely nothing wrong” if somebody seeks some policy changes or forbearance.
“If letter to PMO is marked down to Principal Secretary to PM and Principal Secretary forwards it to department concerned, these are normal,” he claimed.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala posed a set of questions on BJP, asking the ruling party as to who was responsible for allowing the escape of Mallya from India despite the fact that a consortium of banks had moved against him for recovery of over Rs 9,000 crore.
“Was Vijay Mallya tipped off to run away from India by a high ranking official inside the Modi Government?,” he asked.
Surjewala also asked why did BJP vote for and help him get elected as an MP of Rajya Sabha in June 2010 and if it was true that Vijay Mallya has been Working President of Subramaniam Swamy’s Janata Party.
“Why did Modi Government permit ‘Diageo plc’ which now owns United Breweries, make payment of USD 40 Million as part of agreement dated 25.02.2016 as also receive this money in an offshore account? What action has Modi Government taken against ‘Diageo plc’ and United Breweries?,” the Congress leader asked.
Chidambaram said, “Please ask this government whether it received any letter at all in the last three years. Maybe they say they have received no representation... That will be a very serious reflection (on how) the government is functioning.”
The former Finance Minister said the loans that are under investigation were given in 2009, when he was not the Finance Minister.
“The letter does not concern Kingfisher, it concerns United Spirits Limited, which was and is a thriving, flourishing profitable company. The letter does not talk about any loan, the letter talks about an NOC for a preferential allotment of shares. That is capital, equity, not loans,” he said.
“I think, before you start over-analysing the letters, you should keep in mind the distinction between USL and Kingfisher and equity and loan. If you keep that distinction in mind, you will not ask these questions,” Chidambaram said.
Surjewala said newspaper reports have also reported that another sum of USD 58 Million was paid by ‘Diageo plc’ to Vijay Mallya in two trenches for acquisition of South African Breweries.
He said ‘Diageo plc’ supposedly paid USD 141 Million to Standard Chartered Bank after default on a loan taken by Vijay Mallya’s UB Group Company, Watson Ltd and it is also reported that Finance Arm of ‘Diageo plc’ paid another USD 42 Million for previous guarantee to Standard Chartered Bank on a loan taken by UB Overseas Ltd.
“Why has Modi Government not investigated these payments nor taken action against the guilty?
“Why has Modi Government not sought deportation of Vijay Mallya from UK till today?,” he asked.
Surjewala also questioned why did Modi Government waive Rs 1200 crores owed by Vijay Mallya to State Bank of India on 16th November 2016. “Who is the helping hand for Vijay Mallya in the Modi Government?,” he said.
Taking a dig at Modi government’s claims of bringing back black money within 100 days of coming to power, the Congress spokesperson said, “In actuality, a single defaulter with a default of over Rs 9,000 crore has run away from under the watch of the government.”
He alleged that all this has happened despite the fact that a criminal case for financial irregularities and diversion of funds was lodged by CBI nearly seven months ago i.e., 29th July, 2015.
“Vijay Mallya was also interrogated but he was neither arrested nor his passport impounded...Facts available clearly demonstrate the laxity and negligence on part of Finance Ministry and Consortium of Banks led by SBI in delaying proceedings thereby permitting Shri Vijay Mallya to escape,” Surjewala alleged.