Mallya’s “clarification” tallied with Jaitley’s statement that he had not granted the tycoon any formal appointment since 2014 and that the former liquor baron “misused” access as an MP to accost him in a corridor in Parliament to claim he had made an offer of settlement for outstanding loans.
Jaitley said he told Mallya, who “paced up to him”, that an offer, if any, should be made to bankers and denied receiving any papers. After his afternoon remark of meeting Jaitley snowballed into a media storm, Mallya said, “I happened to meet Mr Jaitley in Parliament and I told him I was leaving for London, that I want to settle with the banks and would he please facilitate these discussions. I did not have any formal meeting scheduled with him.”
Earlier in the day, Mallya had said he had met Jaitley and repeated his offer to settle loans. His later clarifications came even as Jaitley rebutted his assertion and as opposition parties issued statements claiming the “revelations” were an embarrassment for the government. But asked about Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent comments that he had been allowed to flee, Mallya said he was not tipped off by anyone.
As events played out, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi demanded a probe into Mallya’s comments while BJP spokesperson G V L Narasimha Rao said that by this token, former PM Manmohan Singh and former finance minister P Chidambaram should be in jail as they not only met Mallya but helped him get loans from public sector banks.
On whether he met any other BJP leader, Mallya said, “Over a period of time, I met many colleagues in Parliament and expressed to them my desire to settle with banks. I don’t believe I owe you any further details.” He claimed he left India for a scheduled meeting in Geneva and said, “There was no need to run and the allegations are media-created allegations.”
Mallya’s remarks came while speaking to the media outside the Westminster magistrates’ court where his extradition trial was in progress.
In his response, Jaitley said, “The statement is factually false in as much as it does not reflect truth. Since 2014, I have never given him (Mallya) any appointment to meet me and the question of his having met me does not arise. However, since he was a member of Rajya Sabha and he occasionally attended the House, he misused that privilege on one occasion while I was walking out of the House to go to my room. He paced up to catch up with me and while walking, uttered a sentence that ‘I am making an offer of settlement’.”
The minister said he did not respond to Mallya’s approach in Parliament. “Having been fully briefed about his earlier ‘bluff’ offers, without allowing him to proceed with the conversation, I curtly told him there was no point talking to me and he must make offers to his bankers,” he said.
Rahul, on his recent trip to the UK, had claimed, “Before leaving, Mallya met some senior BJP leaders, that is documented. I won’t name who. So, they are pretty lenient with these people.”
Mallya left India on March 2, 2016.
Looking to quell the controversy, Mallya said, “I’m afraid this is a controversy created by my friends in the media. I was standing here during the lunch break and I happened to answer a question on the circumstances under which I flew out.”
“I met him (Jaitley) often enough in Parliament and I had expressed my willingness to settle on many an occasion and I don’t understand what this controversy is all about.”