‘Mallya great escape aided by CBI, which reports to PM’: Rahul Gandhi fires fresh salvo

The Congress and the BJP attacked each other yesterday, with Rahul Gandhi reiterating his demand that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley resign, accusing him of “colluding with” Mallya and “allowing the criminal to flee”.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2018 17:30 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
rahul gandhi,vijay mallya,Kingfisher Airlines
Congress President Rahul Gandhi (C) speaks as chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala (L) and senior leader Ashok Gehlot (R) look on, during a press conference on Vijay Mallya's allegations at AICC, in New Delhi, India, on Thursday, September 13, 2018. (HT Photo)

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday extended his intense exchange of allegations with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the government it leads, this time targeting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which, he alleged, helped businessman VIjay Mallya flee the country in 2016. In doing so, he also took aim at Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Mallya’s Great Escape was aided by the CBI quietly changing the “Detain” notice for him, to “Inform”. The CBI reports directly to the PM. It is inconceivable that the CBI, in such a high profile, controversial case, would change a lookout notice without the approval of the PM,” Rahul Gandhi, 48, tweeted.

Gandhi’s fresh attack relates to a change in a 2015 lookout circular that initially required government agencies to detain Vijay Mallya. This order was later changed and required the agencies to only inform the CBI if the businessman enters or exits the country.

With hindsight, the CBI says it was an “error” in judgment to make this change but points that the probe, back in 2015, was still in an early stage and there was no warrant against him.

Vijay Mallya, the liquor baron who founded the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines, fled India in March 2016 even as a debt court in Bangalore was set to act against him for defaulting on loans issued by several banks led by the state-owned State Bank of India.

He is in London and fighting an effort to get him extradited to India. A court will pronounce its verdict in this case on December 10.

The Congress president’s attack is part of the opposition’s continuing offensive against the ruling BJP in the run up to the 2019 general elections.

On Thursday, Gandhi accused finance minister Arun Jaitley of “colluding with” Mallya and “allowing the criminal to flee”, triggering a stinging comeback from the BJP which dismissed the charge.

Countering Gandhi, Union minister Piyush Goyal said it was the Gandhi family’s “relations” with Mallya that caused banks to loan money to Mallya in violation of all norms.

First Published: Sep 14, 2018 13:50 IST