The Congress on Sunday wanted to know if the “reversal” of the Union government’s stance on former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi was done with the approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Congress said Mr. Lalit Modi faced a lookout circular/notice issued by the Enforcement Directorate, which had asked the External Affairs Ministry to revoke his passport. “Why is the Minister helping a fugitive accused of money laundering and FEMA violations secure travel documents,” the Congress asked in an 11-point questionnaire to the government.
The party wondered if such “humanitarian” assistance would now become the norm for black money hoarders, match-fixers, money-launderers and criminals.
'What will happen to PM’s claims on black money now?'
The Congress asked: “What happens to the ‘bringing black money’ claim of the Prime Minister when his own government is helping Lalit Modi, an accused in a Rs. 700-crore money laundering case?”
In a detailed statement of facts relating to the controversy, the Congress said the previous United Progressive Alliance government had asked the British government in mid-2013 for action against Mr. Lalit Modi, who had sought refuge in London.
“The then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram wrote two letters to Chancellor of Exchequer George Osborne asking him for action against Mr. Lalit Modi, and his repatriation to India for being tried under various offences, including FEMA violations, being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate and the Income Tax authorities,” Congress media in-charge Randeep Surjewala told presspersons soon after the government and the BJP broke their silence on the controversy.
The Congress also brought up the association of the Minister’s husband, Swaraj Kaushal, with the former IPL chief. Apart from citing instances of contact between the two, the Congress said Mr. Lalit Modi had sent a copy of his “thank you” e-mail to Ms. Swaraj’s husband.
Another aspect that was highlighted pertained to the Minister’s daughter, Bansuri Swaraj, being one of the nine lawyers who had appeared for Mr. Lalit Modi in the Delhi High Court against revocation of his passport.
The entire Opposition demanded the Minister’s resignation pending an investigation — from the moment the story broke in the morning.
The lone words of caution came from Manoj Jha of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, who said she should not be “demonised”, and Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, who found nothing wrong in the humanitarian gesture, adding that a mountain was being made out of a molehill.
The Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party asked if such humanitarian help would be extended to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat described Ms. Swaraj’s intervention on behalf of Mr. Modi as “unwarranted and unethical”, while CPI national secretary D. Raja asked how her actions fitted into the government’s claims of “good governance”.