BJP in Back Foot Over Jaitley-Mallya Row, Swamy All Guns Blazing at Fin Min

Ever since the beleaguered fugitive business tycoon Vijay Mallya’s claim that he met Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before he left India has triggered a major political storm in the country, with the Congress, BJP, and even BJP’s own party member Subramanian Swamy engaging in a heated war of words over the entire episode. Even as Jaitley denied having had any formal meeting with Mallya, the Congress-led Opposition latched onto the opportunity to corner the Narendra Modi-led BJP government in the run up to the 2019 general elections.

BJP member Subramanian Swamy’s Tweet raising finger at Jaitley has added fuel and new dimestion to the controversy.

The ‘hatred’ between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy is no secret. Swamy, whom Jaitley thinks is a “motormouth” according to his close aides, never wastes an opportunity to take a dig at his party colleague. Not surprisingly, fugitive baron Vijay Mallya is the latest launch pad for Swamy to fire his freshly-loaded ammunition against the finance minister.

Mallya now became Swamy’s latest weapon against Jaitley. Triggering a fresh ammo against Jaitley, Swamy asked who diluted Mallya’s lookout notice.

The BJP has found itself on the defensive after Mallya stated he had met Jaitley in the corridors of Parliament before leaving India in March 2016. Adding more fuel to the fire Swamy retweeted his own tweet from June 2018 on Wednesday. The tweet said, “Mallya could not escape from India because of a strong Look Out Notice for him at airports. He then came to Delhi and met someone who was powerful enough to change the Notice from blocking his departure to just reporting his departure. Who was that person who dilute this LON?”

It’s an “undeniable fact” that Vijay Mallya told Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Parliament that he was leaving for London, Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy said.

On Thursday, he further asked: “I learn from my sources that the Lookout Notice issued by CBI for Mallya was modified from “Block Departure” to “Report Departure” on October 24, 2015 on orders from someone in MoF. Who?”

Notably, five months later, Mallya, who owes more than Rs. 9,000 crore to different banks in the country, flew out of the country in March 2016.

Earlier in January this year, Swamy had praised Manmohan Singh’s tenure as the finance minister and denounced the practise of handing over the finance portfolio to lawyers.

“After seeing Mr. P. Chidambaram and Mr. Arun Jaitley, we should have moratorium on having lawyers as the finance minister,” he said, adding, “Everybody knows what I think about Arun Jaitley. If you want to improve economy, then you must know difference between macroeconomics and microeconomics.”

When asked whether he could persuade Jaitley to abolish income tax at the same event, Swamy said: “I have to persuade Arun Jaitley to resign and go, and not to persuade him to abolish Income Tax which he will never do.”

Mallya, who is wanted in India for a loan default worth Rs. 9,000 crore, had left the country despite a ‘lookout circular’ against him at the country’s exit and entry points, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had said. The circular was issued at the request of CBI after the agency registered an FIR against Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines, and others in October 2015. However, Mallya managed to leave the country despite the notice and this has now raised suspicion over the central government’s role in his easy escape.
Another such fact, according to Swamy: That a lookout notice was “diluted on [October] 24, 2015 from ‘Block’ to ‘Report’ departure, enabling Mallya to depart with 54 checked.

Meanwhile, Congress President Rahul Gandhi reiterated his call for Jaitley’s resignation and accused the Finance Minister of colluding with a “criminal” and not informing the probe agencies, ‘despite having information about the liquor baron’s plan to leave the country’. Speaking at a press conference, Gandhi also targeted PM Modi, asking, “Why did Jaitley allow Mallya to escape, or was it an order from the Prime Minister?”

“This is a clear-cut case of collusion. There is some deal between them. Finance Minister Jaitley must resign and this should be investigated,” he said.

CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said Mallya’s statement has put the Government in the dock. “It is not the Finance Minister alone, we cannot be sure what other facts are being hidden even now. The fundamental point is how he got away despite lookout notices? he said.

Taking a dig at the BJP-led central government, Delhi Chief Minister and AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal said, “People want to know what transpired in these meetings.” “PM Modi meets Neerav Modi before he flees the country. FM meets Vijay Mallya before he flees India. What transpired in these meetings? People want to know,” he tweeted.

Former Union Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said: “Not only the finance minister, the entire BJP must come clean on its relations with Vijay Mallya.”

It remains to be seen how Jaitley is going to counter Swamy’s allegations levelled by his own party member and dust-off the charges of being ‘hand-in-glove’ with an absconding tycoon defaulter.

With the opposition now baying for Jaitley’s blood, there’s more voice for Swamy than Jaitley at the moment, until the BJP devices a strategy to find its way out of the issue.

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