The controversy surrounding the dealings of former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi has snowballed into a major political controversy for the Bharatiya Janata Party. According to television news reports on Wednesday, in a signed statement submitted to a British court, current Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had unambiguously backed Modi’s immigration appeal. Raje had reportedly signed the witness statement in 2011 when she was the leader of opposition in the Rajasthan State Assembly. For the uninitiated, the current Rajasthan chief minister has been accused of hiding the support she provided to Modi in helping him with his immigration status, while he was on the run from Indian authorities for alleged foreign exchange violations.
Raje’s son, meanwhile, has been accused of receiving loans worth 11 crores from one of Modi’s companies in a transaction that is currently being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. With the Opposition gunning for her resignation, reports suggest that the BJP has initiated the verification of all documents regarding Raje’s alleged clandestine help to Modi’s immigration plea. Lalit Modi, who is currently evading Indian authorities in London, fell into the limelight after it emerged that External Affairs Minister Swaraj had gone out of her way to help him obtain travel documents from the British government, after his passport had been revoked by the Indian government. As things stand now, Lalit Modi is an absconder. All those who helped him can be said to have aided and abetted someone under investigation for serious charges.
The BJP’s troubles, however, extend beyond the Rajasthan chief minister’s alleged improprieties. On Wednesday, the Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani was firmly put in the cross-hairs by a Delhi court over allegations that she had falsified her educational qualifications in various affidavits submitted to the Election Commission. Meanwhile, a minister in the Maharashtra government, Pankaja Munde found herself accused of clearing purchases worth Rs 206 crore through government resolutions on a single day instead of inviting tenders through an open market auction. As per Maharashtra government’s norms, any purchase above Rs 3 lakh has to be done through e-tendering. Although Munde said that her decision to check corruption had “troubled” some “money-minded” people, members of the Opposition have said that such dealings smell of a financial scam.
It was only last month that the BJP proclaimed its one-year in office to be “corruption-free”. Safe to say, such self-congratulatory messages have come back to haunt the ruling dispensation at the Centre and the States it governs.
The one obvious lesson is that it is dangerous for ruling political parties to sell the idea of a ‘taint-free’ government when no one is watching and scrutinising their every move. As some political commentators have asserted, the full extent of the UPA government’s corrupt dealings only became clear during its second term. For the NDA government, these controversies perhaps have come at an inopportune time. The monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to begin in a few weeks, where the NDA government seeks to pass key legislation.