Faultlines open up in Modi govt

First full-scale crisis after the NDA regime took charge; leaders attempt damage control both within and outside the BJP.

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:00 pm IST

Published - June 16, 2015 03:33 am IST - New Delhi:

Youth Congress activists ramped up their protest against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj by gathering in front of her residence in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Youth Congress activists ramped up their protest against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj by gathering in front of her residence in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Prime Minister Narendra Modi found himself staring at his first full-scale crisis on Monday, with the Congress now dragging him into the Lalit Modi imbroglio, dubbing it “Modigate” even as it continued to press for External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s resignation for her role in facilitating travel documents in the U.K. for the scam-tainted former Indian Premier League (IPL) commissioner.

But this was not all: the controversy has opened up old faultlines in the ruling BJP, reviving past rivalries.

The first indication came when cricketer and BJP MP Kirti Azad came out in defence of Ms. Swaraj, while hinting at a feud within the party: on Twitter, he referred to a party insider playing a role in leaking information about Ms. Swaraj’s recommendation and her family’s association with Mr. Lalit Modi.

Mr. Azad tweeted that a ‘snake in the grass’ and a media personality were conspiring against the External Affairs Minister: “#BJPs #AsteenKaSaanp & #Arnab conspire against BJP leaders. Guess the snake? IStandWithSushmaSwaraj.”

This instantly set off speculation about the BJP leader who was being referred to.

Indeed, party insiders on Monday pointed to the fact that though senior BJP ministers Rajnath Singh and M. Venkaiah Naidu had already publicly declared their solidarity with Ms. Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been silent on the subject.

It is also well known that Mr. Azad has in the past had differences with Mr. Jaitley over cricketing issues – and control of the Delhi and District Cricket Association. In 2013, along with veteran cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi, Mr. Azad had sought Mr. Jaitley’s resignation as president of DDCA for “ruining Delhi’s cricket.”

Speculation rife on old rivalries resurfacing in party

That all is not well in the BJP also came through on Monday when Ms. Swaraj – despite statements of support from senior BJP ministers, BJP chief Amit Shah and RSS leaders – chose to question the role of a journalist in the media attack on her:

Complicating the issue further is that on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) committee that had found the former IPL boss Lalit Modi guilty on eight different charges of “indiscipline and misconduct” relating to financial and administrative matters of the IPL was Mr. Jaitley – the other members included Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and Chirayu Amin.

Meanwhile, a little over a year into the Modi government that has boasted of providing a scam-free administration, the BJP was rife on Monday with speculation about whether long standing rivalries within the party would surface again.

Last August, the Prime Minister’s Office and BJP chief Amit Shah were forced to issue a public denial after there was speculation that the PM had pulled up Mr. Rajnath Singh for alleged misconduct by his son.

Then in May this year, a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Purti Sakhar Karkhana Limited, a project of the Purti Group in which Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari was once a board member, spoke of wrongdoing, triggering a demand by the Congress for his resignation.

With the Sushma Swaraj controversy still swirling, the BJP has no choice but to close ranks behind the Prime Minister, but old rivalries may make that task difficult.

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