Government on Friday said it had spent no money on overseas visits of United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi or her medical treatment and rubbished claim by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi about expenses of Rs 1,880 crore incurred on these while seeking his apology.
The issue also figured among other items at a meeting of Congress Core Group headed by Gandhi and attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and some other senior leaders.
"Media reports quoting certain quarters about massive expenses from the exchequer on the UPA Chairperson's overseas visits have been brought to the notice of the Prime Minister's Office. The reports quoting an expense of Rs 1,880 crore are untrue and misleading," the PMO said in a statement.
It did not name Modi, who had made the claim a few days ago, but was clearly referring to it.
"The Central Information Commissioner has already denied these reports and made a statement," the PMO statement said.
"The Prime Minister's Office would like to put on record that the government has incurred no expenses on the UPA Chairperson's visits abroad. Expenses for her security contingent are borne by the Special Protection Group," it said.
The PMO said that during the last eight years, only one trip to Belgium undertaken at the invitation of Belgian government to receive a national honour was paid for by Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The total cost was less than Rs 3 lakhs.
"It is further clarified that the government has not borne any expenses for the UPA Chairperson's medical treatment abroad and in India," the statement said.
Modi had made the claim citing an RTI reply but the RTI applicant in Hisar, Haryana, had said the figure quoted by the Gujarat chief minister was grossly wrong.
After the Core Group meet, Finance Minister P Chidambaram said "where does the figure Rs 1880 crore come from? Should the person who made such allegations not apologise?"
"Only trip (of Gandhi) for which anyone paid is the trip to Belgium. The ICCR opened an exhibition and they paid for the ticket. Then there were other functions also in Belgium," Chidambaram said.
"Except for one trip to Belgium, neither government nor any other government body has paid for her travel," he said.
Asked whether this issue was discussed at the Core Group meeting, the finance minister said "of course it was discussed."
Besides Gandhi, Singh and Chidambaram, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Congress President's Political Secretary Ahmed Patel.