House divided over Mallya, Congress accuses BJP of helping ‘thieves’

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 10, 2016 19:50 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other minister in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi (PTI)

Liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s departure from the country led to a political slugfest inside and outside Parliament on Thursday with Rahul Gandhi slamming the government for “allowing” him to leave and finance minister Arun Jaitley hitting back by reminding the Congress vice-president of Bofors scam accused Ottavio Quattrocchi’s flight from India.

In the Rajya Sabha, leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the government of being “party to the criminal conspiracy” to allow Mallya to leave the country when he was facing a probe for loan default. Jaitley responded by saying it was during the UPA regime that banks provided loans to him. The Congress levelled similar charges against the government in the Lok Sabha, too.

While the Congress and the Samajwadi Party attacked the government inside Parliament, Gandhi upped the ante outside, telling reporters, “We simply asked that someone who stole Rs 9,000 crore from the country, how did he run away from the country? How did you allow him to escape? This is the simple question and we neither got a reply to this from Modi-ji nor from Jaitley-ji.”

Jaitley said at a Cabinet briefing that “Rahul-ji should remember that there is a basic difference in Mallya leaving and Quattrocchi going out… When Switzerland officials informed that Quattrocchi was also among the beneficiaries of Bofors and though the person who was heading the CBI investigation earlier, K Madhavan, wrote a letter that his passport should be impounded, the then government had not stopped him and within two days he left India. That was a criminal case.”

Responding to Azad’s charge, Jaitley said the first banking facility was given to Mallya and his companies in September 2004 which were renewed in February 2008. Though in April 30, 2009 Mallya’s accounts were declared non-performing assets, the debts were restructured and more loans were given to him in December 2010, Jaitley said.

“How these accounts were running, what facilities were given, the dates tell their own story,” Jaitley said, adding, “In what circumstances were the loans given is an issue of investigation and the CBI is investigating.”

Raising the issue during Zero hour, Azad held the government responsible for allowing Mallya to leave the country. “Without the participation and without the active support of this government, he could not have left the country. That is my allegation… the government is party to this… In this criminal conspiracy, this government should be made party and the Supreme Court should take note of this,” Azad said amidst slogan shouting by his party members against the BJP.

Azad demanded to know why the government did not forfeit Mallya’s passport and restrict his movement when it was known that he could flee any day. Comparing Mallya’s fleeing with that of Lalit Modi, the Congress leader said the present government had failed to bring back the former IPL chief, too. “One had escaped, the second Lalit Modi (Mallya) should not be allowed to escape.”

On Azad’s contention that the present government had failed to bring back Lalit Modi, Jaitley said it was during the UPA rule that the former IPL chief left the country.

The Samajwadi Party’s Naresh Aggarwal said the matter of Mallya who was a Rajya Sabha MP should be referred to the ethics committee.

Refuting Azad’s charges, Jaitley said there was no order to stop Mallya from leaving the country. “Mallya had left the country before the banks moved the Supreme Court for seizure of his passport,” he said. Jaitley added that banks had been asked to recover every penny that was due.

The finance minister said there were 22 cases filed in different parts of the country against Mallya and some of his assets had also been attached. Mallya’s liabilities, including interest, totalled Rs 9,091.4 crore as of November 30 last year.

As it happened: Here’s how events unfolded in parliament today

2:30 pm Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reminds Rahul Gandhi of Ottavio Quattrocchi’s ‘escape’ after Congress leader targets govt over Vijay Mally

Must remind Rahul Gandhi of fact that there is a basic difference between Mallya leaving & Quattrocchi leaving the nation,” said Jaitley. He reiterated that the day Mallya left country, banks had not started the legal process.

12: 58 pm If you have promised the people of India that you would bring black money, bring back Vijay Mallya, Rahul said further.

12:41 pm Mallya stole money and fled India. Govt still mum, says Rahul

Gandhi further alleged that Mallya stole Rs 9,000 crore from the country and ran away.

“ We asked Arun Jaitley how they could allow someone like that to flee the country.. but Mr Jaitley gave such a long lecture but refused to answer our question,” said Rahul.

12: 15 pm Rahul Gandhi says govt will not allow debate on Mallya issue

Outside the Parliament, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said they (Congress) would like to react on the Vijay Mallya issue. “If they allow us to react (on Vijay Mallya issue), we will. But I doubt they will allow. Government does not allow us to speak. PM does not like to discuss these issues,” he said.

11:45 am Banks will recover every penny from Mallya, says Jaitley

Following the uproar over Mallya, finance minister Arun Jaitley assured the Opposition in Rajya Sabha that a CBI investigation is underway and justice will be served.

Jaitley also said that Congress, which was in power for 10 years till 2014, never took any steps to recover the loans.

He pointed out that attachments of Mallya’s assets have taken place in the past few months. The finance minister further clarified that the liquor baron managed to flee the country on March 2, as the CBI lookout order only reached authorities after that.

Several of his assets have been attached, banks are doing all they can to recover every penny from Mallya..Mallya left India even before the banks moved the Supreme Court,’ said Jaitley.

“Vijay Mallya was given banking facility for the 1st time in 2004 even when account was not in order,” Jaitley added.

Countering the charges, Jaitley said the banks have been asked to recover “every penny that is due”, adding that the first banking facility was given to Mallya and his companies in September 2004 which were renewed in February 2008. The Leader of the House further said the accounts were declared non-performing assets (NPA) on April 30, 2009 and these debts were restructured and more facilites extened in December 2010.

“In what circumstances were the loans given is an issue of investigation and the CBI is investigating,” he said. “How these accounts were running, what facilities were given, the dates tell their own story,” Jaitley said, adding “when the loans were given, how they were given... introspection will be required.”

Jaitley said the liabilities including interest aggregates to Rs 9,091.4 crore as on November 30, 2015.

A group of mainly state-run banks had moved the Supreme Court on 5 March to prevent the flamboyant businessman, who is known for his extravagant lifestyle, from quitting India.

But the attorney general said the 60-year-old had left on March 2 after stepping down as chairman of United Spirits, the Indian arm of Britain’s Diageo, following allegations of financial lapses.

“Agencies and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) have told me he left the country on the second of March,” said Mukul Rohatgi, representing the banks in court.

11: 30 am Why was Mallya not arrested before he could escape, asks Congress

The Congress on Thursday moved an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha to discuss how industrialist Vijay Mallya went abroad inspite of CBI issuing a look-out notice against him.

The Congress accused the Modi government of helping Mallya leave the country. Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad questioned the government on why Vijay Mallya was not arrested why his passport was not seized.

“Vijay Mallya is not a needle that he couldn’t be caught. He can be seen for a kilometer away,” Azad added.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh too reiterated that Mallya should not have been allowed to leave the country.


PM seeks opposition help in passage of GST, other bills

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday made a fresh pitch for passage of GST and other legislations in the Rajya Sabha considering the “conducive atmosphere” that has been prevailing in Parliament this session with cooperation from the opposition. Like in the Lok Sabha last week, he was both conciliatory and mocking towards the opposition, particularly Congress, during his hour long reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Upper House. Referring to some 300 amendments that have been tabled to the motion of thanks, Modi appealed to the parties to withdraw them and passed the motion unanimously to ensure dignity of the President’s office and in keeping with the high traditions of the House.

However, despite his appeal, the government suffered an embarrassment when the House adopted the Motion of Thanks to President’s Address with an amendment moved by Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad in a division in which 94 voted for the amendment and 61 against. The amendment regretted that the address did not commit support to rights of all citizens to contest Panchayat elections in the backdrop of law in Rajasthan and Haryana where matriculation has been fixed as the criteria for contesting the polls.

Opposition raises stink over Sri Sri’s Yamuna event

Clamor grew louder on Wednesday against Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s cultural mega-extravaganza on the ecologically sensitive Yamuna floodplains with the opposition questioning how the government deployed the Indian Army to construct pontoon bridges for the event that has also triggered environmental concerns.

Opposition members shouted slogans in the Rajya Sabha and demanded Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar to reply how the army was involved helping the three-day private event that begins on Friday.

The “World Culture Festival”, organised by the Art of Living Foundation, is awaiting a nod from a Delhi green court, which is expected to give its verdict later Wednesday over the pleas seeking its cancellation.

The mega-event marks 35 years of the foundation run by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar -- a spritual guru for many, and considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well.

The protesting members raised a stink in the Rajya Sabha over how the foundation was allowed to hold the event -- expected to draw some three lakh people -- that threatens the fragile Yamuna.

“There is this person (Ravi Shankar) who is saying he is doing a cultural festival, and you put the army there to construct bridges. The government should shut this down immediately. In 1,000 acres, they are doing this. It will destroy Yamuna,” Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav said.

Some other opposition members got up and started shouting slogans “Save army” and “Rakhsa mantri jawaab do” demanding that the defence minister respond to their protests.

As the ruckus grew louder, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury alleged that it was “highly irregular” that the services of the Indian Army are being used for such an event.

“Can the Indian Army be roped in to build pontoon bridges? It is highly irregular that the army is summoned to create facility for a private function,” Yechury said.

Congress member M.S. Gill echoed the concerns. “How can you send the army to build bridge?”

Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad questioned why an environmental clearance was not taken before the Delhi government gave the event a green signal.

“The question arises what about the environment, biodiversity and ecology in the country,” Azad said.

Azad also said that there were fears of stampede and terror threats. “Is it also not true that Delhi Police has warned of stampede and chaos. Also we hear every day Pakistan has sensitised the government of India that some terrorists have come... The police has also informed whether security angle has been taken in account.”

The government tried to defend the event as well as the deployment of army personnel. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the army was involved from a security point of view.

“As we talk, green tribunal is hearing the issue. The whole programme is taking place with proper permission,” Naqvi said.

He said that Ravi Shankar’s intention cannot be doubted as “he has started mission for cleaning Ganga and Yamuna”.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is Leader of the House, said it was not proper to raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha when a tribunal is hearing the case.

“Rule 69 makes it absolutely clear that when a tribunal is hearing cannot be raised,” Jaitley said. The opposition accused the finance minister of misleading the house because such a ruling pertains to criminal and civil cases and not those related to environment.

Peace returned to the house after members re-assembled following a two-minute adjournment over the noisy scenes.

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