Sonia and Rahul up the ante against Sushma Swaraj

RSTV Bureau
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Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Sharad Yadav (L) along with other members of the opposition during their protest at the Parliament House. Photo – PTI

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi strongly took on Union External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj over her Lok Sabha statement on Thursday where she defended herself in Lalit Modi controversy. The top two of the principal opposition party criticised Ms Swaraj’s statement and even made a fresh round of allegation on Friday morning while protesting against Narendra Modi government at Gandhi statue in the Parliament premises for the fourth straight day.

“Sushma Swaraj does drama, she is an expert in theatrics,” Sonia Gandhi told the press as she entered the Parliament House.

“I would have done my best to help the lady but not by breaking the law,” the AICC chief said in a stern response to Ms Swaraj’s speech where the latter had sought to know what would have Sonia Gandhi done had she been facing the situation to “help” a cancer patient.

The Union External Affairs minister is facing allegation of helping out Lalit Modi with travel papers in UK, to attend his cancer-stricken wife in Lisbon, at the time when his passport was revoked by the Indian authorities. She is also facing the allegations of ‘conflict of interest’ as her husband and daughter have been long standing lawyers of Lalit Modi.

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Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her statement in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

In her statement before the lower house on Thursday, made in the absence of opposition, Sushma Swaraj said that she challenges anyone to “show a document, letter or email recommending Lalit Modi’s case to British government”.

But the Congress party, which has been demanding Sushma’s removal over the controversy, is no mood to ease pressure on her.

Upping ante against her, Congress vice President Rahul Gandhi accused her of helping a “fugitive” and her family of “receiving money” from Lalit Modi.

“Sushmaji’s family has received money from Lalit Modi. She should tell the country how much money has she got from Lalit Modi to keep him out of jail,” Rahul Gandhi said while protesting at the Parliament house with party members.

“Sushmaji made a very eloquent but hollow speech,” added Rahul while criticising the speech made by the Union minister in her defence even as the Opposition had boycotted the proceedings in the lower house.

But the BJP too joined the issue with Congress, criticising the main opposition party’s top leaders over their attack on the Union External Affairs minister.

“Such a statement is disrespect to the people’s mandate…. Congress party especially Rahul Gandhi should not work to reduce Parliament’s respect,” Smriti Irani told the press.

The issue, along with controversy involving Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant Singh, also a BJP MP, having alleged business interest with Lalit Modi and the ‘Vyapam’ scam of Madhya Pradesh has led to an impasse between the ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress party. The latter has been seeking the resignations of Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan CM Raje and Madhya Pradesh CM Chouhan, the demands which had been rejected by the Modi government.

With the Monsoon session of the Parliament seeing a very little business over the opposition protest, the stalemate accentuated further with Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision to suspend 25 MPs of the Congress party on Monday for “persistently, wilfully obstructing the House” citing the Rule 374 (A). The decision has led to Congress party boycotting the house in protest, which has been supported by eight other opposition parties who too are boycotting the proceedings.

(With inputs from the PTI)