Lalit Modi visa row: BJP closes ranks behind Sushma Swaraj

Congress warns of stand-off in Parliament.

Updated - November 17, 2021 04:53 am IST

Published - June 20, 2015 03:22 am IST - New Delhi:

NEW DELHI 19/06/2015: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during ceremonial reception to President of Tanzania at Rashtrapati Bhawan ,in New Delhi Friday June 19,2015. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

NEW DELHI 19/06/2015: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during ceremonial reception to President of Tanzania at Rashtrapati Bhawan ,in New Delhi Friday June 19,2015. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

The BJP decided on Friday to throw its weight behind External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the face of allegations against them of aiding former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.

BJP sources indicated that the decision — that action against either, or the party being seen as defending Ms. Swaraj over Ms. Raje, would take away from its image of “scam-free governance” — was taken at the highest level.

“We have a record of a scam-free first year in government,” a source in the BJP told The Hindu .

Ms. Raje on Thursday spoke to party president Amit Shah and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. The decision to defend her was taken at Mr. Shah’s subsequent meeting with the Prime Minister. Party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said party action against Ms. Raje or Ms. Swaraj was an “imaginary” proposition. “There is nothing against the two technically or legally,” he retorted.

The Congress said the issue would affect the monsoon session of Parliament, if the government refused to sack Ms. Swaraj and replace Ms. Raje. Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi held a meeting with senior leaders, and is reported to have told them “to carry on with the crusade”, according to a leader who was present. “We are prepared for a stand-off similar to the 2013 imbroglio, in which the Opposition demanded a JPC on the telecom scam and Parliament didn’t function for a long time,” a source from Mr. Gandhi’s team revealed.

The Congress said Lalit Modi had links with Narendra Modi when the latter was Chief Minister of Gujarat and president of the Gujarat Cricket Association. The party decided to target the Prime Minister for his silence.

Here's a snapshot of the many people who now populate the ever-deepening saga, the twists the row has taken and a deconstruction of how the story broke in the United Kingdom:

>Arun JaitleyUnion Finance Minister, BJP

"All allegations levelled are baseless."

>P. ChidambaramFormer Finance Minister, Congress

"Ensure Modi returns to India for ED probe."

>Sushma SwarajExternal Affairs Minister, BJP

Helped Lalit Modi after taking a humanitarian view.

>Sitaram Yechury General Secretary, CPI-M

Intervention of Sushma Swaraj is unacceptable

Sushma Swaraj and Keith Vaz are no longer the only ones in the line of fire:

  • » Documents supplied by Lalit Modi's lawyer on Monday revealed that >Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje had in August 2011 backed his immigration application on condition it would not be made known to Indian authorities.
  • » On Wednesday Sushma Swaraj was tweeting in response to allegation that her daughter >Bansuri Swaraj got admission to medical school the northeast quota.

Hints at fissures in the BJP were made by party member Kirti Azad, who pointed to an in-house conspiracy targeting Sushma:

  • » In his tweets, >Mr. Azad referred to a party insider having a role to play in leaking information about the Minister's recommendation and her family's association with Mr. Modi. Mr. Azad claimed that it was a 'snake in the grass' and a media personality who conspired against Ms. Swaraj.

Armed now with enough ammunition, the opposition trained its guns on the Centre :

  • » Sushma should be sacked, said >Rahul Gandhi: "Lalit Modi is the symbol of black money stashed outside and Sushma Swaraj is protecting him"


  • - First exposé in the London-based on Lalit Modi controversy It alleged that senior Labour British parliamentarian of Indian origin Keith Vaz used his influential position as chair of the House of Commons home affairs select committee to help Mr. Modi get his papers to stay in the UK as a temporary resident, despite his position as a fugitive from the law in India.
  • Mr. Vaz, who did not make any public or media statement, in a post on his website said his email was hacked and confidential information accessed. In another post he claims that when he took over there was a passport crisis with 500,000 pending cases in the Home department, which he was able to bring down considerably in five years.
  • - In a follow up to the first story the next week the name of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj comes in as yet another senior politician who is making a case for Lalit Modi. Leaked correspondence shows that Mr. Vaz invoked the names of both Ms. Swaraj and Sir James Bevan, British High Commissioner to India as Mr. Modi’s friends, in order to strengthen his case with the immigration authorities.
  • - In a TV interview Mr. Modi alleges that media baron Rupert Murdoch, who owns the Times and Sunday Times has masterminded the Sunday Times story. He claims that Mr. Murdoch was miffed over a “no exit” clause in the Champions League, and is therefore getting his back.
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