The BJP may go blue in the face saying that no moral issue is involved in the controversy that has exploded around external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s actions, but it will find very few takers. The minister, a person with long years of experience in governance, appears to have intervened on behalf of former IPL czar Lalit Modi, seeking to get him travel documents to go to Portugal, ostensibly for his wife’s surgery. Modi is under the enforcement directorate scanner for violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act in the 2010 IPL scandal. His Indian passport was revoked in 2011 and he has been living in England for some years now, evading prosecution in India. That the minister sought to get his travel papers expedited by a foreign country when he is an economic offender in India seems inexplicable. There is also the added problem that Ms Swaraj’s daughter was part of Modi’s defence team and her husband, Swaraj Kaushal, has been known to be associated with Modi for many years. Mr Kaushal also seems to have sought a favour from Modi for the admission of a relative to a British university. In fact, Modi has apparently thanked Mr Kaushal on his papers coming through from the British authorities after Ms Swaraj’s reported intervention.
While using the humanitarian card, the BJP would be hard put to explain how Modi has been posting photographs on social media, showing him in various countries, hobnobbing with the rich and famous. The minister’s explanation that he has got no benefit from her is a bit thin on the ground. In the past the BJP has been vocal on propriety by those in high places — it pilloried the Congress in the Quattrocchi case, and then in the question of Shashi Tharoor in connection with the IPL and so on. And rightly so. Now it cannot adopt a different set of rules for itself and say that no moral code has been violated. It can be asked whether the minister or any of her colleagues in government should have intervened in the matter of any individual except in the most exceptional of cases. Ms Swaraj’s actions have cast a blot on the NDA government claim that it is not one of grace and favour.
In 2010, Ms Swaraj herself had accused the UPA government of misusing power in cases relating to the IPL. Therefore, it beggars belief that she did not think it wrong to personally bat for Modi. The government’s explanations have not gone down well with the Opposition and unless this is resolved quickly, we are in for fiery times when Parliament convenes for the monsoon session.