An aggressive looking Rahul Gandhi strongly took on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and demanded that the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj be sacked from the cabinet.
“Mr. Modi should sack Sushmaji. Mr. Modi is standing behind Mr. Modi, who is Sushma Swaraj” alleged the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi also directly took on Ms Swaraj saying, “this government doesn’t care about the humanitarian needs of the poor worker but they will give all help to people like Lalit Modi”.
Earlier in the day, Congress party staged a wide protest outside the official residence of Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi. Mounting pressure on Ms. Swaraj over the issue of helping out former Indian Premier League (IPL) Commissioner Lalit Modi with travel papers in UK while his passport was still held by Indian authorities, the workers and cadres of Congress, Youth Congress and NSUI demanded her resignation. Congress party had earlier raised allegations of Sushma Swaraj helping out Lalit Modi in a manner which appears ‘controversial’.
“Shri P Chidambaram requested the UK authorities to take action against Lalit Modi, but EAM Swaraj overruled it…Not only did Sushma Swaraj had client counsel relationship with Lalit Modi, but PM Modi also had close association with Lalit Modi,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala launched a fresh round of allegations in a press conference on Monday evening.
Lalit Modi, facing probe by ED on the charges of alleged corruption in the popular cricket series IPL, had last year sought ‘help’ to get his travel documents arranged to attend his wife’s surgery in Lisbon, Portugal. The controversy came to light after the local press of Britain reported about Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz having allegedly used Sushma Swaraj’s name to get Lalit Modi’s travel papers from the UK immigration authority. Ms. Swaraj is also battling the charges of ‘conflict of interest’ as the opposition parties, in particular the Congress party, has been claiming that minister’s husband Swaraj Kaushal had been Lalit Modi’s lawyer for the last 22 years. Also, her daughter Bansuri has been his lawyer since 7 years.
Though she defended her move to ‘help’ out Lalit Modi on ‘humanitarian’ grounds, it has not been able to cut much ice with the opposition seeking her removal.
“Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that: British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations,” Sushma had written on a micro-blogging site Twitter on Sunday. However, since her series of tweets on Sunday, she has not made any further statement in public or to the press.
With controversy snowballing further, Congress and host of other opposition parties attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with seeking Ms. Swaraj’s ouster from the cabinet.
“There are circumstances which establish contact between Sushma Swaraj and Lalit Modi. As a quid pro quo, Sushma Swaraj has done favour to a tainted person who is accused of Rs. 700 crore money laundering, tax evasion and several other charges,” Congress party’s national spokesperson PL Punia alleged.
“The PM and the BJP have been talking about accountability but when it comes to brass tacks, the Prime Minister is absolutely quiet… if a person faces criminal charges, can relief be considered on humanitarian grounds?” Sitaram Yechury, CPI (M) General Secretary said while targeting the PM.
“The decision could not have been taken without the knowledge of the PMO,” Aam Aadmi Party claimed in its presser.
Host of other opposition parties, too targeted the Centre and PM Modi with Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and even CPI taking on the government and the BJP over this controversy.
Meanwhile, her party BJP and the government have thrown their weight been her ever since the controversy broke out. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said, “What Sushma ji has done, it is right… I want to clarify that the government stands with her.”
On his part, the man at the centre of row, Lalit Modi has not given any public reaction thus far.
Under the Enforcement Directorate lens since 2010, Lalit Modi is ‘wanted’ in India and has been living in London. His passport though revoked by the authorities, a decision also upheld by the Delhi High Court in 2013, was finally restored in August 2014 by another order passed by the Delhi High Court.