The BJP found itself mired in a fresh controversy on Tuesday after it emerged that its chief minister in Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje, appeared to have been a secret witness to the 2011 UK immigration application of fallen IPL chief Lalit Modi.
The party and the central government are already fighting fire over foreign minister Sushma Swaraj having helped Modi, who is facing corruption charges in India, get travel documents from the UK authorities after his Indian passport was impounded. The latest revelations added to their discomfiture less than two months before the critical monsoon session of Parliament.
Documents released by Modi’s legal team through a public relations agency contained what purported to be a Witness Statement by Raje, in which she said, “I make this statement in support of any immigration application that Lalit Modi makes, but do so on the strict condition that my assistance will not become known to the Indian authorities.”
The statement was given on August 18, 2011 when she was opposition leader in Rajasthan. The released documents, whose veracity HT cannot verify, had several pages missing and did not contain a signature.
"This witness statement is provided on the strict understanding that its contents and the identity of its maker are treated confidentially and that it is used only for the purposes stated in it," its top portion reads.
“I don’t know what documents you people are talking about,” Raje told news agency ANI, acknowledging that she knew Lalit Modi’s family.
The revelations provoked a sharp reaction from Congress, which called for Raje’s resignation. It has already been demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi speak out and sack Swaraj.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “If the documents are correct, then it is a case of cheating, treachery and duping Indian authorities to help a fugitive. In that case, Ms Vasundhara Raje should step down immediately.” BJP leaders contacted by HT declined to comment.
The flamboyant Modi was the go-to guy for Rajasthan politicians, power brokers and the who's who of everything from showbiz to big business. At one time, his proximity to Raje was well-known but became an embarrassment for the CM as well as the party.
But things between the two soured when he was re-elected Rajasthan Cricket Association president in May 2014 but unceremoniously ousted a few months later.
After his ouster, Modi said on Twitter that Raje had ensured unfair voting and he would go after her government.
He had then tweeted, “She @VasundharaBJP has fired the first salvo of ensuring unfair voting - wait and watch this space for my next move. I too can fire missiles.”