Embattled Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje flew in and out of Delhi on Saturday but didn’t meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any of the BJP top leaders to discuss the Lalit Modi controversy, apparently heeding the party’s advice.
Speculation swirled soon after she flew back to Jaipur in the afternoon that the BJP central leadership denied her an audience in an apparent snub for her links with UK-based former IPL chief Lalit Modi, who is wanted in India for alleged tax fraud and money laundering.
Raje was in Delhi for over three hours — spending most part of it at a Niti Aayog meeting and some time at her home in the Capital. It was earlier speculated that she would meet Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah to explain her case amid growing clamour for her removal, despite the party standing firmly behind her.
BJP leaders said Raje was not snubbed because the party has openly supported her, ruling out any need to meet people in Delhi.
“Like all other chief ministers, she came here to attend an official meeting and, like others, returned after that. No other BJP CM met the PM or the BJP chief,” party secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
But a senior party functionary explained why she did not meet the top leaders. “Raje was advised to return after the meeting and, hence, she did not seek an appointment with any of the central leaders. A meeting would have allowed the Congress to raise more muck.”
Sources said the party was apparently keeping an exit route open in case some clinching evidence crops up against Raje or her parliamentarian-son Dushyant Singh, in whose business Lalit Modi had allegedly invested heavily.
More than that, the party’s strategy was to keep the Prime Minister out of the Lalit Modi controversy which has engulfed Raje as well as foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for helping him get British travel and immigration papers.
“In documents that we have seen, there is no case against Raje. There are some issues with his son’s case but they are not serious enough to attract disciplinary action. Let us see how things unfold in the coming days,” a Union minister said.
The buzz of a snub forced the chief minister office in Jaipur to clarify that no meeting with central leaders was scheduled for her. But the short sojourn raised curiosity because Raje used to stay for more than two days in Delhi and had regularly held meetings with Rajasthan government officials in the national capital.
“The party is fully behind the chief minister. She was our leader, is our leader and will be our leader. There is no question of her replacement,” health minister Rajendra Rathore said as BJP’s Rajasthan continued to rally behind the beleaguered leader.
Party sources said Raje had briefed finance minister Arun Jaitley, who met BJP chief Shah on Friday evening after going through a bunch of papers related to the case. The party concluded that Raje and her son didn’t violate any law or misused government funds to benefit Lalit Modi.
"News anchors cannot run the BJP or the government. We will prove the media wrong this time. Raje will not go,” a BJP leader said.
BJP chief ministers who attended the Niti Aayog meeting refrained from commenting on the controversy.