Amid attacks from the Congress over the Rs. 12,600-crore PNB scam, the BJP on Monday accused former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram of aiding jewellers Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi -- main accused in the multi-crore bank fraud case -- through an 80:20 gold import scheme.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also targeted Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and sought answers from him on the issue.
Talking to reporters in New Delhi, BJP leader and Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that Chidambaram gave his "blessings and benefits under the 80:20 scheme" to seven private jewellers on May 16, 2014, the day the results of Lok Sabha polls were announced.
"These seven jewellers included Geetanjali and Star (sic) jewellers," Prasad said.
He said the 80:20 gold import scheme was started in August 2013 under the UPA government and was repealed by the Narendra Modi government three months after it came to power.
Prasad said earlier only Metals and Minerals Trading Corporation and public sector undertakings had the right to import gold, but that was changed.
"There was round-tripping under the scheme," he alleged.
The 80:20 scheme was brought for nominated banks/ agencies/ entities to "rationalise" import of gold in any form to tame the current account deficit.
Prasad said exit polls had predicted that the Congress would lose elections and Chidambaram would not have been Finance Minister after the results were out.
"It was expected of the then learned Finance Minister that he will follow constitutional norms (of not taking important decisions)," Prasad said.
"Chidambaram should say, Rahul Gandhi should say why benefits were passed on to seven private companies under 80:20 scheme on May 16. The nation wants to know," he asked.
He said Chidambaram's order was subsequently cleared by the Reserve Bank of India on May 21.
"Mr. Chidambaram, is it 'jumla' or corruption? We want that real picture of Chidambaram should come before people. Mr. Chidambaram, please reply is it jumla, blatant favouritism, mala fide conduct or rampant corruption?" Prasad said.
He alleged that the Congress was trying to spread misinformation about and fear against the BJP among people.
"Congress should reply who were the people lobbying for Geetanjali and what was the cut?" he said.
Prasad also targeted former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the increase in stressed assets of banks under the UPA government.
He said that the total advance given by banks in 2008 was Rs 18.06 lakh crore which rose to Rs 52.15 lakh crore in March 2014.
Prasad said that stressed assets of banks were pegged at 36 per cent in March 2014 but these subsequently rose to 82 per cent.
"Several times the real picture was not allowed to come on bank records during the UPA rule. The economic structure of the country was shattered by the Congress," he said.
The Minister stressed there had been no NPAs (non-performing assets) in the loans given under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
"Under the so-called economist Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the entire banking system was completely sought to be derailed because of interventions, because of pressures, because of patronage," Prasad said.
The Congress has been targeting the government, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in the Rs 12,600-crore PNB bank fraud case and seeking answers from them over Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi being able to leave the country.