The ripples generated by former IPL czar Lalit Modi from the Adriatic coast in Montenegro, where he is at present, is turning into a political tidal wave here. The first to be hit by it was external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and now Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. The revelations by Modi, if proved, are serious and cannot be brushed away.
The most damaging is a written statement by Ms Raje that she would stand witness to Modi’s immigration application provided the Indian authorities did not know of it. She was the leader of the opposition in the Rajasthan assembly when she allegedly made that statement, which was released by Modi’s team.
It is not signed but Modi says that the original document is with the British authorities. If proved authentic, Ms Raje is in a very sticky situation. She was an elected leader at the time she was reportedly trying to conceal her actions in favour of an economic offender from the authorities.
It cannot also help her case that her son appears to have been the beneficiary of Modi’s largesse. Shares owned by Ms Raje’s son, which were priced at just Rs 10, were brought by Modi at around Rs 97,000 — the explanation being that the buyer spotted enormous potential in the business. The sum involved ran into crores.
Ms Raje’s links with the Modi family are clear in that she accompanied the former IPL’s chief’s ailing wife to Portugal on two occasions. Clearly impressed by the facility for cancer research that Mrs Modi was using there, Ms Raje cleared an MOU with it and the state of Rajasthan. If there are explanations for all these actions, then they must be made public. While the party has backed Ms Swaraj, such support has not been forthcoming so far in the case of Ms Raje. The extraordinary powers Modi once enjoyed in Rajasthan when Ms Raje was chief minister earlier are well known.
Modi is vocal about his proximity to both Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje. This definitely raises the issue of conflict of interest, particularly since in the latter’s case, a family member appears to have benefited monetarily from the friendship. Ms Raje’s claim that she is not aware of this document appears to be in the realm of sophistry. She has not denied outright that she lent her name to such a document.
There is no easy way out of this mess created by Modi. The parties whose names have been dragged into this have to come clean and explain their actions. Ms Raje’s silence has only led to the Opposition opening up with the heavy artillery.
This is not tenable for the chief minister. This does not appear to be a wave that either she or Ms Swaraj can ride out in a hurry.