New Delhi: The war of words between the Congress and the BJP over fugitive Vijay Mallya escalated today with Congress president Rahul Gandhi accusing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of lying and allowing the liquor baron to escape. Hitting back, the BJP alleged the Gandhi family had tried to salvage the businessman’s floundering Kingfisher Airlines in 2011-12. Gandhi alleged that Jaitley “discussed the logistics of Mallya’s escape during a meeting in Parliament in March 2016 and gave him a free passage from the country. This is an open and shut case. The FM colluded with a criminal. Mallya told the minister he is running away. The FM too has admitted that Mallya told him he will be leaving the country. “But the FM did not inform the CBI or the ED. Why? Why an extended meeting with Mallya,” asked Gandhi. He was flanked by party colleague PL Punia, who claimed he had seen Jaitley and Mallya engaged in a 20-minute conversation. Asked whether he was hinting at PM Narendra Modi’s role, Gandhi said, “Of course. The PM decides everything. Jaitley should tell us if he allowed Mallya to run away or whether the PM instructed him.” In its counter-offensive, the BJP alleged the Congress was trying to cover up its sins. Showing a clipping wherein former PM Manmohan Singh spoke of plans to look into the concerns of private airlines, Union Minister Piyush Goyal claimed this was “evidence of the involvement of the top Congress leadership to bail out private airlines”. He, however, was evasive on why the lookout notice was diluted from “block to report”.