NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday termed as "motivated" the Congress's demand of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's resignation over his meeting with Vijay Mallya, saying it is a strategy to deflect attention from the UPA government's "cronyism and favouritism".
The defence minister told PTI that a brief conversation which Mallya had with Jaitley in a corridor of Parliament is being "played up" and asserted that responses to the issue have "reinforced" the fact it was not a conversation of any merit.
Jaitley, she noted, had already explained as to how Mallya misused his privilege as a member of Parliament to speak to him.
To a question about Congress MP P L Punia's claim that he had seen Jaitley sitting with Mallya in Parliament's Central Hall and there would be CCTV footage to corroborate it, Sitharaman shot back, asking if the footage would also have audio recording.
"It already seems a very motivated allegation," she said of the Congress' charge against Jaitley.
Hitting out at the Congress, she said letters were written to the Reserve Bank of India and State Bank of India during the UPA's rule to help Mallya.
"They are in tour face. How favouritism naming that one company has been made. Whose period made it sick? Whose period had favouritism and cronyism entering in to suggest to the central bank and written instructions given to banks to lend to this defaulter," she asked.
Look at the strategy with which Congress would want to deflect it, she asked wryly if that "minutes' conversation" helped him to go away or all the lending happened (during the UPA rule) because of it.
Multiple loans were given to bogus accounts which did not have creditworthiness, she said.
The BJP leader said the Modi government had brought in a law through which defaulters' property can be confiscated. The UPA government passed some laws but never made rules, she said.
Mallya had Wednesday claimed in London that he had met the finance minister before leaving for the UK, drawing a rebuttal from Jaitley who said he never gave him any appointment but the businessman used his privilege as an MP to accost him in Parliament.
Immediately after Jaitley's sharp rebuttal Wednesday, Mallya appeared to tone down the seriousness of his comments, saying it was "not fair" to create a controversy over this issue as it was not a "formal meeting" and he only "happened to meet" the finance minister.