rahul gandhi
Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing the media in New Delhi on Thursday.ANI

Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday held a press conference in New Delhi targetting Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley over his meeting with absconding businessman Vijay Mallya.

Mallya had on Wednesday told reporters in London that he had met Jaitley before leaving the country for London. His comments had drawn immediate flak from the opposition. 

Speaking to the media, the Congress president said that if Jaitley had known that Mallya would be leaving the country, why didn't he informed the CBI, the ED or the police.

Hitting out strongly at the finance minister, Gandhi said that Jaitley had colluded with the absconding defaulter in helping him in running away from the country. 

He also questioned why a restraint notice against Mallya was turned into an informed notice and said only someone who can control the CBI could have changed the notice. Gandhi added that the Finance Minister was lying about the meeting. Taking a dig at the finance minister, the Congress chief said that when Jaitley writes lengthy blogs on every issue, why he has not written a blog about his meeting with Mallya so far. 

Launching a blistering attack on the BJP government, Gandhi said that the government was lying on the Rafale deal and it was also lying on Vijay Mallya. "Mallya was given a free passage out of the country by the Finance minister," the Congress president said. 

Responding to Jaitley's claims that he had not held any formal meeting with Mallya but had only met him once in the corridor of the parliament house, Gandhi said that even if the businessman had caught up with Jaitley in the corridor, why did the latter did not inform the CBI or ED that Mallya was going to flee the country. "This is clearly a collision, there is definitely a deal. Finance Minister should clearly say what transpired and he should resign," Gandhi said.

Also present at the Press conference was Congress leader PL Punia who said that he was an eye-witness to the meeting that took place between Mallya and Jaitley. "I saw both Arun Jaitley and Vijay Mallya having a discussion in the Central Hall of the Parliament. This can be can be verified with CCTV footage from that day," he said. 

Earlier today, Jaitley cleared his stand on the matter in an interview given to news agency ANI. He said that he had never given any appointment to Mallya either at his office or his residence. He added that he had never ever offered to meet Mallya.

However, Jaitley admitted that he does remember one occasion when Mallya had misused his privilege as a member of the Rajya Sabha and had pissed up towards Jaitley while the finance minister was walking up to his room from the parliament. Jaitley said that Mallya suggested that he was going to make some offer of settlement

"I did not even bother to get any detail from him..i curtely told him that he must go and make it to the bankers because i was fully aware that he had been bluffing on several occassions in the past and had no intention of giving the money back," Jaitley told ANI in an interview on Thursday. 

Jaitley also recalled another incident when Mallya had literally tried to barge into Jaitley and had tried to make an offer but the finance minister had refused to accept the order. 

A blame game has started between the BJP and the Congress following Mallya's remarks about meeting the Finance minister. Earlier on Thursday, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra held a presser and told media that it was not Jaitley but in fact, the Gandhi family who had relationships with Mallya. 

"Rahul Gandhi has gone on back-foot over Kingfisher Airlines. Sometimes it seems the Airlines wasn't owned by Mallya but by Gandhi family in the proxy. Benefits that Gandhi family got out of Kingfisher Airlines via business class upgradation, free tickets etc is in public domain," Patra said.