New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday demanded Finance Minister Arun Jaitely's resignation after accusing him of colluding with fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya "and giving him a free passage" to flee the country.
Addressing the media at the Congress headquarters here, Gandhi asked why the Minister did not inform the investigating agencies about Mallya's plans to leave India.
"There is a clear-cut collusion. He (Jaitley) should have confessed (about the meeting) and he should resign," said Gandhi.
At the media conference, party MP P.L. Punia claimed to give an eyewitness account of the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya in the Central Hall of Parliament before the businessman fled the country on March 2, 2016.
"The Finance Minister talks to an absconder (Mallya) and the absconder tells the Finance Minister that I am going to London. The Finance Minister neither told the CBI, the ED or the police, why?
"He was given a free passage to leave the country by the Finance Minister," said Gandhi and alleged that the logistics of Mallya going out of the country were discussed at the meeting.
"The Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal."
Punia claimed the meeting between Jaitley and Mallya lasted 15-20 minutes and alleged that Mallya took Jaitley's permission after holding consultations with him about his planned flight abroad.
"The meeting happened on March 1, 2016, a day after the Union budget was presented. In the Central Hall, initially Mallya and Jaitley were standing and were talking intently. Then they moved to the benches in the Central Hall and were seated and talking," said Punia.
"Later, on March 3 morning, news appeared that Mallya left the country on March 2. My first reaction was that I had seen them together in Central Hall a day earlier," said Punia.
The MP said he had referred about the meeting in his interactions with the media.
"I am surprised that for last two and a half years, the Finance Minister never referred to this meeting. It was not a short meeting but a formal meeting. There is CCTV facility in Parliament and their meeting can be verified from the footages.
"It is very clear that Mallya took his (Jaitley's) permission after holding consultations. It is our charge and inference that he (Mallya) went with his (Jaitley's) concurrence.
"It is a serious issue. Either he (Jaitley) quits politics or I will quit," said Punia.
Ridiculing Jaitley, Gandhi said: "Yesterday Jaitley said Mallya had approached him informally. He writes long blogs, but forgot to write about this in any of his blogs."
He also questioned why Jaitley did not inform the CBI, ED or the police that Mallya had told him about his plans to go to London.
"Our first question is an absconder tells the Finance Minister that I am going to London and the Finance Minister doesn't refer it to CBI, ED or the police.
"Our second question is there was a lookout notice against Mallya which was diluted to an inform notice. Who changed it? This can be done only by one who controls the CBI," he alleged.
He also demanded to know if the decision was taken by Jaitley himself or the "order came from the top".
Referring to Jaitley claiming that his meeting with Mallya was in the corridor of the Central Hall of Parliament, Gandhi demanded to know why Jaitley did not tell the CBI about this.
"The Prime Minister takes the decisions and Jaitley listens to him. Did he (Jaitley) allow him to flee or the order was from the top?"
On a question if the meeting was a coincidence, Gandhi replied: "How can it be a coincidence? The Finance Minister is responsible for taking action against economic offenders.
"It is clear-cut collusion, the Finance Minister has colluded with a criminal running away from the country. He was told by the criminal that he is going to run away but the Finance Minister did nothing. He has colluded with the criminal. whatever we can do we will do," said Gandhi, adding that the "government is lying on Rafale, they are lying on Mallya".