"So the Prime Minister seems to be telling Jaitley that he should not continue as Finance Minister till he gets cleared", Ghulam Nabi Azad said in a press conference.
Opposition on Tuesday claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has signalled to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to quit in the wake of DDCA row by drawing a parallel with L K Advani in the Hawala case, a suggestion BJP rejected outright.
“Today I heard Prime Minister saying that Jaitley will come out of this like L K Advani in the Jain Hawala case. I will remind Jaitley that Advani had then resigned and had not come back till he got clean chit from the Supreme Court”, Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters on Tuesday.
“So the Prime Minister seems to be telling Jaitley that he should not continue as Finance Minister till he gets cleared”, he said addressing a joint press conference with party leaders Anand Sharma and Randeep Surjewala.
Striking a similar note, CPI-M General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said by drawing a parallel with Advani, the Prime Minister is giving a hint to Arun Jaitley that he should resign, get himself cleared and come back.
“I read it as a signal to Jaitley that you also do the same thing”, he said talking separately to reporters.
In a strong show of support for Jaitley, Modi on Tuesday said at BJP parliamentary party meet that he will come through “with flying colours” against charges of corruption levelled against him by the opposition in a same way Advani did in the Hawala case.
Senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh also tweeted, “Modi: ‘I am sure Arun Jaitley would come out clean as Advaniji did in Hawala case’. But would Jaitley resign as Advaniji did ? No question!”
The BJP was quick to dismiss such claims.
“There is no parallel between charges against Advani and Jaitley. CBI had registered a case, launched a criminal investigation and Advani quit as an MP on moral grounds. There is no criminal probe against Jaitley. These are allegations levelled by opposition which are unsupported by evidence.
“In fact, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office probe was carried out into these allegations when Congress was in power. It stated that there was no fraud or cheating. Due to political rivalry, Congress is ignoring its government’s inquiry. It has no moral right to level such a charge,” BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
BJP leaders noted that the SFIO probe was launched on the complaint of party MP Kirti Azad, who has again targeted Jaitley over the issue after AAP and Congress raked it up.
First Congress disrupted Parliament over a case in which its leaders are accused of “grabbing” Rs 5000 cr assets by investing only Rs 50 lakh and now they have resorted to levelling false charges against Jaitley to do it, Sharma said.
The AICC briefing saw the Congress leaders utilising to the hilt Kirti Azad’s assertions in the Lok Sabha on the issue yesterday, contending that none of the Ministers of party MPs present contested his charges.
“It means all of them were agreeing to what Kirti Azad was saying”, the Leader of the Opposition said adding that the BJP member had also spoken of a CBI inquiry having been ordered into the DDCA.
He sought to know from the government whether if such an inquiry has been ordered as Kirti Azad had said, at what stage it is now.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha also suggested that Jaitley’s opposition to the earlier UPA government’s plans to bring sports bodies under the RTI appeared to be linked to the DDCA affairs.
He said that whether it is the Lalit Modi controversy or some other scandals, the sports bodies are there.
Surjewala said that the Congress was ready to provide full cooperation to the government in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha if the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister bring a bill to bring sports bodies under RTI to address the issue of transparency.
Seeking to drive home its demand for Jaitley’s resignation, Azad also noted that the Supreme Court in a judgement in January 2011 had held that office bearers of cricket associations are also public servants and all within the prevention of corruption act.
Azad said that it would be better if Jaitley quit on his own paving the way for an impartial probe.
Anand Sharma said BJP used to demand the resignation of ministers on flimsy reasons when it was in the opposition.
“Now the Prime Minister only talks about transparency, but does not practice it,” he added.
He said the Prime Minister should tell the nation whether he has ordered a CBI inquiry into the DDCA row and if so why the nation was kept in the dark so far.
Surjewala dismissed the claim of Serious Fraud Investigation Office has absolved him in the DDCA row. He said that SFIO does not investigate individuals but only corporates.
Insisting that the SFIO had indicted the DDCA, he wanted Jaitley to release the report.
In a joint statement later, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sharma said, “The fact remains that Shri Arun Jaitley presided over the DDCA and all the wrongdoings happened under his oversight and, therefore, he cannot absolve himself of the responsibility and admitted failure to check corruption and prevent abuse of office.”
They noted that Jaitley has in the past been a crusader for accountability and has repeatedly invoked the adage that “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”.
The recent developments and revelations, therefore, make it imperative that he lives by the dictum and does not make untenable arguments that this case be treated as an exception to the established principles of accountability in public life, they said.
Ghulam Nabi Azad and Sharma said one cannot overlook the “damming revelations” made by Kirti Azad, who is an eminent former cricketer. “Kirti Azad’s video clip which he displayed in the press conference on Sunday clearly takes lid of the stink of corruption, mis-governance and cronyism in the DDCA and we support his demand of a time bound independent enquiry into the alleged acts of omission & commission.”
The two Congress leaders said that under such circumstances, it will be “fit and appropriate” that Jaitley steps down till a thorough, fair and independent probe is concluded into the affairs of DDCA.
“The fact remains that Jaitley presided over the DDCA and all the wrongdoings happened under his oversight and, therefore, he cannot absolve himself of the responsibility and admitted failure to check corruption and prevent abuse of office,” they added.