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Modi: Congress seeks to pin Modi on PM, BJP says scam began under UPA | India News

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NEW DELHI: Congress targeted the Modi government on Thursday over the Rs 11,300-crore PNB scam, calling Nirav Modi “doosra chhota Modi” and alleging that the diamantaire was allowed to flee the country like fallen IPL czar Lalit Modi. BJP countered the charge by saying the scam was born under UPA.

Congress said “loot and scoot” had become the hallmark of the government, with liquor baron Vijay Mallya and Lalit Modi evading the law after major frauds. Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said various ministries and the PMO repeatedly ignored complaints of wrongdoing against Nirav and his partner Mehul Choksi filed by a whistleblower.

He cited a letter written by another diamond merchant to the PMO in 2016 seeking action against Choksi. With Congress pointing to agroup photo of PM Narendra Modi with Indian businessmen in Davos featuring Nirav, Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Guide to looting India by Nirav Modi — 1. Hug PM Modi 2. Be seen with him in Davos. Use that clout to: a. Steal Rs 12,000 crore; b. Slip out of the country like Mallya, while the government looks the other way.”

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury, too, pointed to the same photo to suggest that Nirav enjoyed political patronage. Taking on Congress over its attempt to pin the scam on the PM, law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad emphasised that Nirav started pilfering money from PNB in 2011 when UPA was in power.

“What are you trying to say? We understand the pain (of Congress), they lose repeatedly to him,” Prasad said. He said a Nirav Modi jewellery show in Delhi’s Imperial Hotel in 2013 was inaugurated by Rahul and added that action to revoke Nirav’s and Choksi’s passports had been initiated. Later, BJP released photographs of Congress leaders — former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan, Subodh Kant Sahai and Rajiv Shukla — at events organised by Choksi.

Prasad said Nirav reached Davos on his own and was in the CII group photo with the PM. “There was no meeting with the PM or any discussion with him. I want to warn Congress to stop politics over photos… should we detail all the help extended to Mallya by officials in the (Manmohan Singh) PMO?” he asked.

The heated exchanges over the PNB scam took on an added intensity as the development came in the midst of election season, with BJP making an all-out attempt to topple Congress in Karnataka — after the current polls in three northeast states — and the opposition looking to capitalise on the bounce it received in Gujarat.

The PM has consistently targeted Congress on UPAera scams and held up his record of having curbed corruption. The PNB lending mess has given Congress, which was already alleging corruption in the Rafale deal, an opportunity to challenge the claim. BJP, however, said the scam began in 2011 and Prasad said there was a doubling of Choksi’s income in 2011-13 and asked who the political bigwig to have blessed the businessman was.

While Prasad asserted that no bank had given a loan that turned into an NPA under the Modi government, Congress dubbed Nirav “chota Modi two” and asked whether the controversial billionaire had got a tip-off that led him to leave India. “The PM should tell us who is protecting the jeweller,” he said.

Updated: February 15, 2018 — 7:31 pm

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