All you should know about Lalit Modi, Sushma Swaraj, Raje controversy

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 18, 2015 19:34 IST

The controversy over external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's help to Lalit Modi to procure travel documents on "humanitarian" grounds has caused a huge embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government given that the former IPL commissioner is charged with financial impropriety by the Enforcement Directorate.

In an added twist to the episode, the name of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje has also cropped up with allegations that she testified in favour of Modi's British immigration application in 2011.

While the government has supported Swaraj with senior ministers in the Cabinet backing the foreign minister, the Congress party has kept up its attack accusing her of "nepotism, abuse of authority and violation of rules" and sought her resignation over the matter.

Here are the series of events that have happened since Sunday:

1. Swaraj came under fire after British newspaper The Sunday Times reported an email conversation from last year between Indian-origin UK lawmaker Keith Vaz and the head of the country's immigration department, Sarah Rapson, where the MP cited Swaraj to facilitate travel documents for the disgraced cricket administrator, whose passport was impounded at the time.

2. Swaraj jumped into the storm on Sunday after she acknowledged that she helped the axed IPL chief get travel papers in London on "humanitarian" grounds as his cancer-stricken wife was due to undergo surgery in Portugal.

3. Despite the Opposition chorus demanding the minister's resignation, the Bharatiya Janata Party was on Monday quick to defend the beleaguered minister by fielding its president, Amit Shah. "There were no moral issue involved," Shah said. The BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, too, backed her saying the minister was full of "patriotism and nationalism and has never compromised on these two things."

4. Not satisfied with the government's response, Congress kept up its attack and demanded Swaraj's head over the issue. From party vice-president Rahul Gandhi to opposition party's deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma and general secretary Digvijaya Singh - all questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi's silence on the matter. On Tuesday, the Congress also demanded a Supreme Court-monitored probe into allegations of nexus between BJP leaders and the scam-tainted former IPL boss.

5. On Tuesday, Swaraj got a strong backing from her colleague, finance minister Arun Jaitley, who termed "baseless" all allegations against her in the Lalit Modi issue. Jaitley's defence came after Shah, home minister Rajnath Singh and environment minister Prakash Javadekar spoke in Swaraj's support. "Our ministers are capable of taking decisions, and all decisions taken by the government are the collective responsibility of the government," Jaitley said.

6. The BJP was also hit by allegations of infighting with speculation as to why Jaitley, who also holds the information and broadcasting portfolio, had not spoken out in favour of his colleague. Social media was rife with speculation that the leak to the media of the email exchanges between Swaraj, Lalit Modi and Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz was the job of an "insider", especially with Sushma Swaraj getting top rating for her good work as minister. BJP MP and former cricketer Kirti Azad referred to it in a tweet and the hashtag #AsteenKaSaanp had been trending on Twitter.

7. As the government continued to firefight over the Modi-Swaraj issue, Rajasthan CM Raje's name cropped up in the billowing controversy on Tuesday adding to its headache. The revelation about Raje was made in a document released by Lalit Modi's legal team. It was mentioned that Raje, who was then leader of opposition in the Rajasthan assembly, had given a "Witness Statement" in August 2011 to British authorities supporting his case for immigration in Britain. Raje had allegedly said she was in favour of Modi's immigration application on the strict clause that her name will not be revealed to the Indian authorities.

10. Raje, in a press note issued by her media advisor, said: "I know the family of Lalit Modi. But I am not aware which document people are talking about." Rajasthan BJP spokesperson Kailash Nath Bhat questioned the authenticity of the document, saying there were no signatures of Raje and also that she has not been in touch with Modi for the last four-five years. Raje clarified her position to BJP president Shah over the allegations and also sought time to meet him.

11. On Wednesday, senior Congress leader and former union finance minister P Chidambaram bolstered his party's attack on Swaraj on Lalit Modi link and posed seven questions to the government. He accused the minister of "nepotism, abuse of authority and violation of rules". He also questioned the government about the steps it has taken to bring back the former IPL chief, against whom the Enforcement Directorate is investigating 16 cases and has show cause notice in 15 cases.

12. ED, meanwhile, has stepped up probe into a foreign exchange violation case against a Rajasthan-based firm said to be owned by Lalit Modi which involves alleged illegal routing of Rs 21 crore funds from a Mauritius-based company. The ED had begun investigations into this case in October last year after it detected some foreign investment coming into this group which had Modi's relatives at the helm. The agency has already recorded the statements of few employees of the firm and summons are being issued to more individuals for questioning. Modi would also be asked to join the probe "whenever" the investigators require his presence.

(With agency inputs)


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