BJP in stirring defence, Cong stares right back
With pressure mounting on the party to act against Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put forward his two most prominent colleagues – Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to defend her.
Hardening its stance, the Congress on Tuesday demanded a Supreme <g data-gr-id="37">Court-monitored</g> SIT probe into the “scandal”. “There has been <g data-gr-id="36">nexus</g> of the senior leadership of the government (with former IPL boss Lalit Modi) who have been in cahoots in cricket management or mismanagement. An independent inquiry by <g data-gr-id="35">a SC-monitored</g> SIT is necessary,” said party spokesman Anand Sharma.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday sought to do some damage control by coming out in defence of Swaraj over her help to Lalit Modi. Two days after the raging controversy broke out, triggering a political storm for the Modi government, Jaitley, Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh met in the Home Ministry and discussed the entire issue for an hour before the ministers addressed a press conference.
“All allegations levelled are baseless. Her (Swaraj) statement and that of the party president (show) that whatever she did was with good intentions. She acted bona fide. The entire government and the party are one on the issue. There should be no doubt on this,” Jaitley said with Singh by his side.
Jaitley’s defence of his cabinet colleague comes two days after party president Amit Shah and Rajnath Singh had asserted that Swaraj had acted on humanitarian considerations in the matter of helping former IPL boss Lalit Modi get travel documents from Britain. Speculation has been rife over the “silence” of Jaitley after the controversy broke out on Sunday over Swaraj’s help to Lalit Modi. There are whispers that the Finance Ministry and the External Affairs Ministry are involved in a blame game over who should appeal against the Delhi High Court order quashing the revocation of Lalit Modi’s passport in August last year.
The MEA is said to be of the view that the issue of revocation of passport was a matter in the jurisdiction of the ED, which was pursuing cases against Modi and it was for it to make the appeal.
There was also a report that former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, removed by the Modi government, having remarked that she knew nothing about the minister helping Lalit Modi. Sources also said there was nothing in writing about Swaraj having talked to the British High Commissioner on the issue.
However, Finance Ministry sources say that the ED and the Revenue Department were not a party before the case in the Delhi High Court and it was for the MEA to go in appeal.
Jaitley himself stepped in to clarify the issue. Asked whether the Enforcement Directorate would appeal against the Delhi High Court decision quashing the revocation of <g data-gr-id="76">passport</g>, Jaitley <g data-gr-id="77">said</g> “the matter of passport comes within the jurisdiction of passport authorities. They will decide.”
To another question whether the ED will continue its probe in the Lalit Modi matter, he said the ED has investigated several cases against the person concerned (Modi) and has issued a number of show cause notices as part of its <g data-gr-id="74">quasi judicial</g> functions.
Asked whether Swaraj had acted on her own to help Modi, Jaitley said all ministers in charge of various departments were capable of taking decisions and in all decisions taken by the government there is a collective responsibility.
There have been insinuations by some party insiders suggesting that Jaitley could have a hand in Swaraj’s troubles. Party MP Kirti Azad had tweeted about a “snake in the grass” suggesting an insider job. Jaitley dodged a question as to who was the “<g data-gr-id="80">aasteen</g> ka <g data-gr-id="81">saanp</g>” (snake in the grass) which Azad had tweeted about. “Ask the next question,” was his brusque reply. The Finance Minister also said that a “light blue corner” notice has been issued against Modi in 2010 and that continues to be valid even on Tuesday. Adding fuel to the fire, the office of Lalit Modi on Tuesday evening released a document which claimed that Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje had recommended his case for migration to England. Raje’s office sources countered the claim saying it was an unsigned document.