Defending former prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh following allegations that the UPA regime facilitated loans to Vijay Mallya's now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines from a consortium of banks, the Congress Party turned the tables on the ruling dispensation asking how did they let the liquor baron leave the nation in the first place.
Demanding the Centre to provide evidence of the charges against Dr Singh, Congress leader Rizwan Arshad asserted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led party has never been able to produce a shred of proof in its allegations.
"Since the last three years that they have been in power, the Modi government has claimed corruption under Manmohan Singh's regime but have not brought any credible evidence," Arshad told ANI.
"We want to ask Prime Minister Modi and his government how they allowed Vijay Mallya to flee from this country. He ran away with police protection. Who allowed his felicitation? You have shamelessly allowed him to run away," he added.
The BJP earlier alleged that Dr Singh and former finance minister P. Chidambaram helped Mallya get huge loans for bailing out the Kingfisher Airlines.
Addressing a press conference, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra produced two letters addressed to Dr Singh and another to Chidambaram to back his allegation that the UPA government intervened to facilitate loans to Mallya's airline in 2011 and 2013 when it was in a financial mess.
"The Vijay Mallya case has been a classic case of duping the people of India of their money, of their hard earned money. And we have seen over a period of time there have been certain questions which have been looming large in this case. The question was if an ordinary man goes to take loan then the paper work has to be complete only after a complete paper work and after a lot of grilling, a man is entitled to get a hefty loan," Patra said.
"The first loan was granted to Vijay Mallya in 2004 and then on February 7, 2008. Despite his cost declared NPA, restructuring of his loan was done in December 21, 2010. Even the Supreme Court had asked as to why the banks continued to lend money if they had managed to recover only one-tenth of what they had lend," he added.
Patra also demanded that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi come clean on the issue.
Dr Singh yesterday rubbished the allegations levelled by the BJP of helping Mallya get loans, saying he has not done anything against the law of the land.
"All Prime Ministers and other ministers in any government receive representation from various captains of industry which is passed on to appropriate authority," Dr Singh said while responding to the charges during a joint press conference with Chidambaram at the party headquarters.
"What I did was with full satisfaction of mine that we were not doing anything against law of the land. It was a normal routine transaction and, therefore, the letter that's being talked about is nothing but an ordinary piece of letter," he added.
Chidambaram also backed Dr Singh and said, "If a letter to PMO is marked down to the principal secretary which is then forwarded to the department concerned, it is normal. The government, especially the PMO, or the finance minister's office etc, receive hundreds of representations every day."
"No minister can deal with these representations personally and they are marked down to the officer concerned who take appropriate follow-up action. Please ask the present government whether they received no representations at all in the last three years. If they say they haven't received any representation, that will be the serious reflection of the way this government is functioning," he added.
The former union minister also refuted allegations when asked whether there was any pressure on the consortium of banks.