Former finance minister P Chidambaram Wednesday tore apart the government’s defence of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj for helping former IPL boss Lalit Modi get UK travel documents, saying the NDA regime twisted rules and regulations.
The senior Congress leader asked a set of seven questions, putting the government on the mat, and laughed away Modi’s allegations that the UPA had hounded him out of the country out of political vendetta.
He demanded the Centre release correspondence between him and the UK chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne to clear the air amid a snowballing controversy.
“The conduct of Ms Sushma Swaraj, the external affairs minister, in facilitating the issue of a travel document to Mr Lalit Modi when his passport stood cancelled and he was avoiding an enquiry by the ED raises a number of important questions,” Chidambaram told reporters in Chennai. BJP spokespersons, however, refused to comment.
Top BJP ministers have thrown their weight behind Swaraj. But the scandal has hurt the party as it prepares for Parliament’s monsoon session with key bills on the line.
Chidambaram wondered why the government didn’t challenge a Delhi high court order that restored Lalit Modi’s passport and whether the Enforcement Directorate had been consulted.
“Who took the decision to issue a fresh passport to Lalit Modi? Will the government make file notings public,” he asked. He also asked what steps the government had taken since the fresh passport to enforce the ED summons.
External affairs ministry sources said the decision to not go to the Supreme Court was taken at the behest of the ED.
The Congress leader asked why Swaraj didn’t advise Modi to apply to the Indian high commission for a temporary travel document instead of helping him get the UK papers.
“Why did Swaraj help him get a long-term visa or residency of Britain when he was facing serious criminal charges in India? Why did she not stress on Modi’s return to India to face charges and why did she feel Modi, an Indian citizen, should have a UK travel document rather than an Indian one,” he asked. He also asked the government to respond to Modi’s charge that his life would be in danger if he returned, wondering if the NDA wasn’t capable of giving him security.
In Delhi, the Congress mounted pressure on the government to sack Swaraj and Rajasthan CM Vasundhara Raje, whose name also figures in the controversy. “Swaraj and Raje are guilty of violation of various penal codes of the CrPc. There is clear-cut culpability,” Congress’s Randeep Singh Surjewala said.