The BJP has alleged that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram favoured industrialist Vijay Mallya in getting huge loans for bailing out the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Both the Congress leaders rejected the allegations and asserted that the letters from the liquor baron were a routine affair.
If the Bharatiya Janata Party, citing letters by Mallya to both Singh and Chidambaram, pointed fingers at Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi, the Congress, in turn, attacked the Narendra Modi government over ‘loans waiver’ to Mallya and his fleeing the country.
Reading out the contents of the letters to the media, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra claimed a bailout package was given to Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) on “Manmohan Singh’s insistence”.
He said that Mallya was allowed to procure loans worth Rs 9,000 crore without proper papers or proper accounts.
“Were there certain hidden hands pulling the strings from behind? Was the sinking ship (Congress) helping the sinking airlines (KFA)?” asked Patra.
“We now have certain emails, letters and correspondence that reveal that those hands belong to Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram,” said Patra adding that on Manmohan Singh’s “insistence” the Income Tax Department “went soft” on Mallya and his accounts were also “unfrozen”.
“In letter after letter written to Manmohan Singh, Mallya says he needs the indulgence of the PM and certain funds are released,” said Patra.
Pointing to a letter “to Chidambaram”, Patra claimed that the industrialist had asked the minister to ensure that the State Bank of India (SBI) grants him a no-objection certificate (NOC) allowing his company United Spirits Limited (USL) to raise over Rs 2,000 crore through issue of shares on a preferential basis.
“The SBI which did not want to indulge with a defaulter called Mallya, was ready to give the NOC to the USL only because it was rebuked by Chidambaram,” alleged Patra.
Pointing fingers at the Congress’ top leadership, Patra said: “Both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi need to come out in public and declare in whose behest the then Prime Minister and his Finance Minister sanctioned loans to Mallya. They need to come clean on this.”
Both Manmohan Singh and Chidambaram denied favouring Mallya and asserted that the purported letters were only among the hundreds of letters routinely received by the then UPA government.
“All prime ministers and other ministers in any government, receive representations from various captains of industry which we in normal course, pass on to appropriate authority. This is what I have done and done with full satisfaction that we were not doing anything which was against the law of the land,” said Manmohan Singh.
“The letter(s) being talked about is nothing else but an ordinary piece of letter which any government in my position would have dealt with,” he added.
Chidambaram too rebutted Patra’s claim.
“There is absolutely nothing in it if anybody says we want some forbearance, we want some policy changes.
“If a letter to PMO is marked down to the Principal Secretary which is then forwarded to the department concerned, it is normal,” said Chidambaram referring to Patra’s allegation that the letters to the PMO were forwarded to the bureaucrat to ensure “Mallya is helped”.
“Please ask the present government whether they received representations at all in the last three years. If they say they haven’t received any representation, that will be serious reflection of the way this government is functioning,” added Chidambaram.
Returning the fire, the Congress questioned the Modi government over Mallya’s “escape from the country”.
“Who permitted Mallya to escape, who waived loans to him? We want to ask was it not the BJP which voted Mallya and brought him in the Rajya Sabha,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
“Was Mallya tipped off to run away from India by a high ranking official inside the Modi government,” asked Surjewala and wondered “why the Modi government has not sought his deportation from UK”.
“Why has Modi government waived Rs 1,200 crore owed by Mallya to SBI on November 16, 2016? Who is the helping hand for Mallya in the Modi government?” asked Surjewala. (IANS)