External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj triggered a controversy on Sunday by defending her recommendation to the U.K. last year to provide travel documents to former Indian Premier League chief Lalit Modi to visit his wife, undergoing treatment for cancer in Portugal, if the rules permitted.
The Union government and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh came out in full support of Ms. Swaraj. Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah said the recommendation was made on “humanitarian” and not “moral” grounds. Mr. Lalit Modi’s passport was revoked in 2010 and restored by the Delhi High Court last August.
Ms. Swaraj tweeted that she had told the U.K. that “giving emergency travel documents to an Indian citizen cannot, and should not, spoil relations between the two countries”. The Minister said she had conveyed to the British government that India would not object if the British authorities acceded to Mr. Lalit Modi’s request. There was a need, she said, to take a “humanitarian” view.
The government’s sharp defence followed a discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. Mr. Singh said, “Whatever she has done is right. We justify it and the government completely stands by her.”
Ms. Swaraj is learnt to have spoken to the Prime Minister.
RSS says Sushma guided by nationalistic spirit
BJP president Amit Shah took a swipe at the party saying this matter was different from allowing Bofors scam-accused Ottavio Quattrocchi or Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson to “leave” the country.
RSS leader Indresh Kumar said Ms. Swaraj had been guided by her “humane” nature and “nationalistic” spirit.
The Opposition parties alleged a conflict of interest after reports said that Ms. Swaraj’s daughter had represented Mr. Lalit Modi in court.
They even asked if Ms. Swaraj’s husband provided legal counsel to the ex-IPL commissioner.
Ms. Swaraj tweeted: “After his [Lalit Modi’s] wife’s surgery, he came back to London. What is it that I changed?” “What benefit did I pass on to Lalit Modi — that he could sign consent papers for surgery of his wife suffering from cancer?”
The controversy broke out here shortly after the British media reported that Labour MP Keith Vaz had recommended to immigration officials in the U.K. to grant travel documents to Mr. Lalit Modi, based on his consultation with the Minister, something that Ms. Swaraj has confirmed.
Mr. Lalit Modi on Saturday posted on his Twitter handle the photographs of his wife and family members at a wedding in Venice.